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World Cup Qualifying Preview: England - Montenegro

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World Cup Qualifying Preview: England - Montenegro
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World Cup Qualifying Preview: England - Montenegro

England faces Montenegro in Group H on Friday knowing that victory will put the the Three Lions in pole position to qualify for the World Cup.

The two sides, along with Ukraine, are separated by one point at the top of their qualifying group with two matches remaining. A win for Montenegro on Friday would mean that the outcome of the group would be decided in the final round of games on Tuesday, when England takes on a Poland side that sits three points behind Roy Hodgson's men.

But a victory for England, and defeat for Ukraine in Poland, would leave Roy Hodgson's men in a position of strength, with their goal difference considerably stronger than Poland's.

England has never beaten Montenegro since it became a nation in its own right in 2007 – all three fixtures have ended in draws – and their only meeting at Wembley ended goalless. In their first showdown in the group the match ended 1-1, with Wayne Rooney scoring early for England only for Dejan Damjanovic to level with 14 minutes to play.

Should England qualify it would be its 14th appearance at the World Cup, while Montenegro is eyeing its debut on football's biggest stage in Brazil next summer.

England has not lost a competitive fixture since it was beaten by Germany in Bloemfontein in 2010, although it was eliminated from Euro 2012 on penalties after a goalless draw against Italy at the quarterfinal stage.

Hodgson will be without Ashley Cole for the two fixtures after the Chelsea left back pulled out with a rib injury. Arsenal's Kieran Gibbs has been added to the squad, but Everton's Leighton Baines is poised to start in defense.

After missing England's last two qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine with a thigh injury, Daniel Sturridge could be in line to return after scoring six goals in seven Premier League games for Liverpool this season.

Montenegro has not won any of its last four matches, but only one of those ended in defeat – 4-0 against Ukraine in June – and coach Branko Brnovic remains confident heading to London.

"We can do it," Brnovic said. "We have the quality and this team play much better away than home. I believe that my players do not need any special motivation for such games, because to play against the great England team at Wembley is something that every player dreams about."

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