Oliver Todd takes an in-depth look at England's opponents Montenegro ahead of Tuesday's top-of-the-table Group H clash
By Oliver Todd
Last Updated: 26/03/13 12:18pm
Montenegro and England are currently clear at the top of Group H and Tuesday's meeting in Podgorica could play a key role in deciding who qualifies automatically for the 2014 World Cup.
Victory for England would move Roy Hodgson's side top of the table, but a win for Montenegro would leave the Three Lions trailing by five points and facing the likelihood of a play-off.
Ahead of the game, Oliver Todd has taken a look at the players England will have to watch out for and how Montenegro may approach the game.
Mirko Vucinic is arguably Montenegro's biggest star and the country's all-time leading goalscorer. His controlled volley kept his side at the top of the group on Friday evening in the 1-0 win over Moldova. The 29-year-old has been in good form this season, leading the line for Italian champions Juventus and helping to guide them to the top of Serie A and the quarter-finals of the Champions League. The Brave Falcons' captain will be aiming to take a step towards their first World Cup finals. England's makeshift defence will need to be at their best to keep him quiet.
Stevan Jovetic has actually outscored Vucinic in Serie A this year at fourth place Fiorentina. His variety of goals from range, instinctive finishes and individual skill have seen his stock on the rise in Europe this year with Arsenal thought to be admirers. His return of 10 goals from just 23 international appearances is a solid total and he will be looking to add to that this evening under the watching eyes of a number of Premier League scouts.
Now also plying his trade at Fiorentina, Stefan Savic could be up against old team-mates Joe Hart, Joleon Lescott and James Milner tonight, having made 11 appearances for Premier League champions Manchester City last season. Savic was often derided for his errors in defence but can still be effective at the top level when called upon. Alongside his other defensive charges, Savic has helped to keep it tight at the back for Montenegro, having conceded no goals for the national team since September and will be key to keeping the likes of Wayne Rooney quiet if Montenegro are to claim victory tonight.
STYLE OF PLAY
Branko Brnovic has made a big point of championing the attacking talents of the Montenegrins, whilst labelling England as a long ball side. They have enjoyed great variety in their goalscoring so far in the group, the pick of which was a slick counter-attack away in the Ukraine to secure a 1-0 win. The sodden pitch of the Podgorica City Stadium is unlikely to give the best platform for a free flowing passing style though, so expect Montenegro to dig in to secure the result they need. England may find it tough to break down their defence in such circumstances.
QUALIFYING TO DATE
Montenegro have not been short of goals so far in the qualifiers, knocking in 13 whilst conceding just two, the same number as England. Last time out they edged past Moldova having been reduced to 10 men following Milorad Pekovic's red card, which subsequently sees him suspended for tonight's game. They currently sit at the top of the group, two points above England. They are unbeaten since 2011 and have not conceded since a 2-2 draw with Poland in September, the only game they have failed to win in the group.
The Brave Falcons have tended to line up in a 4-4-2 formation under Brnovic with dangermen Jovetic and Vucinic leading the line. You can expect similar from them tonight, although Brnovic has already indicated that they will be playing in an understandably more withdrawn style than usual. Their counter-attacking ability should not be understated, and the pace of Jovetic and Vucinic will cause problems to England's back four. If England can keep control of the game and resist pressure from the Montenegrin counters, a much needed away win could be on the cards.