England vs. Montenegro: The Key Battles England Must Win
When England take to the field this Friday against Montenegro, nerves will be jangling all over the country as Roy Hodgson's side look to secure the win that would surely confirm qualification for Brazil 2014.
It's peculiar to think that even though England are unbeaten in this qualifying campaign, they are yet to secure their progress through Group H.
Montenegro are just one of the sides that could potentially oust England out of a place at the World Cup, with Tuesday's opponents Poland as well as Ukraine still in the running too. March's encounter against tomorrow night's opposition ended in a 1-1 draw, so what are the key battles England face at Wembley to get the desired result?
1. Joe Hart vs. Stevan Jovetic
They're now Premier League teammates as well as international rivals, and for Joe Hart, he will face his sternest test of this qualifying campaign against Stevan Jovetic on Friday night. With Juventus' Mirko Vucinic ruled out through injury, it is likely that the Manchester City man will lead the line for Montenegro.
Although he has yet to break his way into the first team under Manuel Pellegrini at City, Jovetic will no doubt be looking to heap even more misery on his Manchester compatriot, who has come under a barrage of pressure from the media as to whether he is still England's No. 1. Jovetic told the Manchester Evening News he is looking to compound Hart's early-season misery even further on Friday.
2. Gary Cahill vs. Dejan Damjanovic
With Vucinic unavailable for Montenegro, the man tasked with filling his hefty boots will be a man who already has previous with England in this qualifying campaign.
In the 1-1 draw in Podgorica in March, things were looking comfortable for England until Dejan Damjanovic arrived to level with a late equaliser and ensure England returned home without three points. He's a man who has plenty of experience with finding the net, too; he's scored 113 times in 186 games for club side FC Seoul, so Chelsea defender Gary Cahill—and his likely partner Phil Jagielka—will have their hands full keeping the lively centre-forward quiet on Friday night.
3. Wayne Rooney vs. Miodrag Dzudovic
If Wayne Rooney's time at Manchester United has been fraught with controversy in the last 12 months, then his time with England can be described as near perfection. Despite scoring the England goal in the 1-1 draw in March, Rooney still has scores to settle with Montenegro—and Miodrag Dzudovic.
Dzudovic is the player Rooney infamously lashed out at in England's final Euro 2012 qualifying game, with his red card meaning he'd have to miss the opening two games of England's campaign at the championships last year. In this campaign though, Rooney has played four games and scored five goals, underlying his importance to England.
Whether he plays in midfield or attack on Friday, his return into battle with Dzudovic will be crucial in determining just how well England do on the most crucial of qualifying nights.
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