ENGLAND take on Montenegro tomorrow looking to make it two Euro 2020 qualifying wins out of two in the wake of Friday’s 5-0 thumping of the Czech Republic.

With Gareth Southgate’s side currently riding the crest of a wave, what are the main talking points ahead of the game in Podgorica?


He was previously one of the most infuriating members of the England team – now, Raheem Sterling finds himself firmly established as one of the best attacking players in the world.

Is that over-egging it? Not on the evidence of his performances with Manchester City this season, when he has regularly outshone the likes of Sergio Aguero and Leroy Sane, and not when it comes to his hat-trick heroics on Friday night, when he repeatedly ripped apart the Czech Republic defence.

Harry Kane remains England’s attacking talisman, and thanks to a lack of genuine competition at centre-forward, the skipper would probably be the hardest player for Southgate to replace if he sustained an injury. Increasingly, though, Sterling is the England player that opponents fear most.


Having suffered an injury in the early stages of Friday’s win, Eric Dier is extremely unlikely to feature tomorrow. Southgate must decide who to play in his place.

When he went off against the Czech Republic, Dier was replaced by Ross Barkley, with Southgate feeling England needed some extra attacking impetus after a relatively slow start. Barkley is an option tomorrow, but while Montenegro are hardly a European powerhouse, this is one of England’s trickier qualifiers and Southgate may feel he needs more a defensive presence alongside Jordan Henderson.

That could well mean a first start for Declan Rice, who produced a composed display after replacing Dele Alli to make his England debut in the second half of Friday’s win. Rice was cheered on when he left the bench three days ago – it will be interesting to see if he is received as warmly by England’s more partisan travelling support.


Jordan Pickford has had some difficult moments this season – not least in this month’s appearance at St James’ Park – but Southgate is adamant the Wearsider remains his undisputed number one.

Therefore, while there might be a slight temptation to use tomorrow’s game to provide either Tom Heaton or Jack Butland with some competitive experience, Pickford will retain his place between the sticks.

He has achieved so much in such a short space of time that it is easy to forget that Pickford is just 25, still an extremely young age for an international goalkeeper. Southgate will continue to offer him his whole-hearted support, with Pickford’s shot-stopping abilities and comfort with the ball at his feet now firmly established as key components of England’s preferred style.


England have never lost to Montenegro, but their record against the former Yugoslav nation is not particularly impressive. They have played two games in the Montenegrin capital, Podgorica, and are yet to win.

Their first trip came in October 2011, and resulted in a 2-2 draw in a Euros qualifier that is best remembered for Wayne Rooney’s late sending off. Ashley Young and Darren Bent fired England into a two-goal lead, but Andrija Delibasic scored in stoppage time to salvage a point for Montenegro.

England returned to Podgorica for a World Cup qualifier in March 2013, and were forced to settle for another draw, with a second-half equaliser from Dejan Damjanovic cancelling out Rooney’s early strike.


England’s participation in this summer’s Nations League finals meant they had to be drawn into a five-team qualifying group for Euro 2020 rather than into a pool containing six teams.

As a result, they will only play eight qualifying matches, and if they follow up Friday’s win with another victory tomorrow, their haul of six points from two games will mean they already have at least a half a foot in the finals.

The two matches against the lowest-ranked team in the group, Kosovo, should be gimmes, so while the autumn trips to Prague and Sofia to take on the Czech Republic and Bulgaria could prove tricky, England’s strong Wembley record means a win tomorrow should make qualification for Euro 2020 all but inevitable.