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World Cup qualifying preview: Montenegro v England

By Football News



Roy Hodgson's England face a tough assignment in 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying on Tuesday, when they go away to Montenegro.

England could only manage a 2-2 draw when they travelled to Podgorica in October 2011, giving up a two-goal lead and seeing Wayne Rooney sent off.

The Balkan side had previously earned an impressive 0-0 draw at Wembley Stadium in October 2010, and proved England's toughest obstacle in qualifying for Euro 2012.

Then coached by Italian Fabio Capello, England ultimately topped their group by six points, with Montenegro finishing second and losing in the play-offs to the Czech Republic.

But the situation is far less comfortable for Hodgson and his players this time around - England are second in Group H, two points behind leaders Montenegro.

Branko Brnovic's men have only dropped points in a 2-2 draw at home to Poland last September, before beating San Marino twice, and winning away to Moldova, matching England's results in those fixtures.

More significantly, they earned maximum points from a difficult trip to the Ukraine, a team who held England to a draw at Wembley and are yet to play Hodgson's side on home soil.

While the game between the two front-runners at Wembley in October this year looms as a decider, defeat at the Podgorica City Stadium this week would be a major blow to England's hopes of automatic qualification.

An 8-0 thrashing of minnows San Marino was nothing more than a morale-booster for Hodgson's team, and they will face a far sterner test on Tuesday.

Montenegro recorded a 1-0 win over Moldova in Chisinau on Friday, with Mirko Vucinic scoring the only goal of the game.

The Juventus striker is the most high-profile player in the squad, along with Fiorentina's highly rated forward Stevan Jovetic.

English Premier League fans will also be familiar with Stefan Savic, who spent one season with Manchester City in 2011/12, before joining Jovetic in Florence.

Greuther Fuerth midfielder Milorad Pekovic will be suspended for the visit England after being sent off for a second bookable offence against Moldova, while Filip Kasalica is a major injury doubt after being stretchered off in that game.

For England, Rio Ferdinand, Gary Cahill and Theo Walcott all withdrew from the original squad due to injury.

Liverpool fullback Glen Johnson looks set to recover from a toe injury, while captain Steven Gerrard will return to the starting line-up after being rested against San Marino.

Ashley Cole is likely to replace Leighton Baines at left-back, and James Milner could come in for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.