Montenegro vs. England: Predicting the England Starting XI
England were widely criticized for their performance in the World Cup but since then, they have regained their form and confidence under Fabio Capello and have had a strong qualifying campaign for the Euro Championships. Many new players have been brought into the fold since the World Cup and the England manager does have a good pool of talent to choose from for the Euro Championships.
Montenegro have also been decent in their qualifying group and will provide a stern test for Capello's men. England only need a point for securing a safe passage to the Euro Championship and will hope that they can have a decent result this week. Capello has called some new faces to the squad and has chosen not to risk Steven Gerrard and Rio Ferdinand, who have just returned from injury.
Capello has come under severe criticism in the past but he is one of the most experienced and successful managers in the world and the passionate England supporters will hope that he can steer them into the Euro Championships and that they have a good tournament in 2012.
The squad for the game against Montenegro is:
Goalkeepers: Carson (Bursaspor), Hart (Man City), Stockdale (Ipswich).
Joe Hart (Goalkeeper)
Joe Hart has established himself as the first-choice keeper for England and is currently one of the world's most talented keepers. His loan spell at Birmingham City in the 2009-10 season proved his quality and on his return to Manchester City under Roberto Mancini, he was able to dislodge the consistent Shay Given, who left the club to sign for Aston Villa. Hart is commanding in the penalty area and also has excellent reflexes and can be the England goalkeeper for a long time.
However, the England manager will be worried by the lack of alternatives if Hart is not playing because there are not many quality English keepers. Ben Foster has asked not to be considered for England and Robert Green and David James have both been error-prone. Hart is arguably the best keeper that England have had since the retirement of former Arsenal keeper David Seaman and will continue to be in goal for this important game against Montenegro.
Ashley Cole (Left-Back)
Chelsea defender Ashley Cole is another player who is certain to start for England against Montenegro and he will provide security at the back. The former Arsenal defender is a player of the highest quality and will provide good support in attack as well with his forays down the left wing. Cole will make good overlapping runs and will provide an outlet down the left. The Chelsea left-back has been one of the most consistent players for England and Chelsea and will be expected to be at his best.
Everton's Leighton Baines will be backup for Cole and he is also a quality player as he has shown with his performances for the club. Cole will have an important role to play in the game and his runs down the left could be a very important outlet for England who only need a point to qualify for the Euro Championships.
John Terry (Centre-Back)
Fabio Capello has reinstated John Terry as the captain of the England team following the World Cup debacle and Terry has shown that he is a natural leader for both club and country. He is one of the most important players at the back and is one of the most consistent players. With the exclusion of Rio Ferdinand from the squad due to lack of match practice, Terry will have an important role in marshaling the defense.
The Chelsea captain did not have a great World Cup but since then, his performances for both club and country have been solid and he will have an important role to play in the Euro Championships. Montenegro do have attacking player who can cause problems for the back line and Terry's experience will be important for the team.
Gary Cahill (Centre-Back)
Gary Cahill has put in some good performances for England in the absence of Rio Ferdinand and has been able to retain the place in the team alongside John Terry. Cahill was targeted by many clubs in the summer but in the end, he did stay at Bolton though he has less than 12 months left on his contract. He will need to be at his best because he faces plenty of competition for his place in the team.
Manchester United's Chris Smalling and Phil Jones have both been impressive for the club and will push for a place in the near future with Jones in the squad as well for this fixture. Phil Jagielka is also in the squad and is also a quality player. However, Cahill's recent performances mean that Capello will almost certainly persist with the Bolton defender and give him more opportunities to establish himself in the squad.
Phil Jagielka (Right-Back)
With the injury to Liverpool's Glen Johnson, it is not certain as to who will start at right-back for the game against Montenegro. North London derby hero Kyle Walker is in the squad and has a chance to start the game as well. Also, Manchester City's Micah Richards has been rewarded with a call-up for his consistent performances for the star-studded club.
However, there also exists the possibility of Fabio Capello deploying Phil Jagielka at right-back which is possible considering that England need to be defensively solid against Montenegro and though he will not provide much with regard to attack, he is more defensively solid than the others. England need to avoid defeat against Montenegro to ensure that they qualify and Capello could play safe with his selection of the team.
Gareth Barry (Central Midfielder)
Gareth Barry has had his critics in the past, especially after his insipid performance against Germany in the World Cup, but he does bring stability to the midfield which is why Fabio Capello does pick him for many important games. The Manchester City midfielder is not very adventurous but keeps things moving at a decent pace and he also provides good cover to the England defense.
Barry is likely to start against Montenegro as well and could have an important role in midfield for the team. With Frank Lampard's position in the team not certain, Barry could be trusted to distribute the ball from deep midfield and could also push forward to support in attack.
Scott Parker (Central Defensive Midfielder)
Scott Parker has forced himself into Fabio Capello's plans for the Euro Championships by putting in a number of impressive displays for West Ham and now Tottenham, and the hard-tackling midfielder has shown that he can be an asset to the team. The former West Ham midfielder brings in a lot of passion and determination and due to his good reading of the game, he can make numerous interceptions and tackles and provide a good shield for the defense.
However, he is not a guaranteed starter for England but there is a chance that Capello could drop Frank Lampard for the combination of Barry and Parker because they help England be more solid and also allow Wayne Rooney and others to push further forward. Parker has a superb work rate and will certainly help England defensively.
Ashley Young (Attacking Midfielder)
Ashley Young has been very impressive for Manchester United, who signed him from Aston Villa in the summer, and he has also impressed for England under Capello after his omission from the team in the World Cup. Young has shown that he can produce the goods for England and his versatility also provides more options for the team.
The midfielder has established a good partnership with Wayne Rooney at United and Capello will hope that the duo can combine well for England against Montenegro. The introduction of Young changed the game against Switzerland in the Euro qualifier and he has had great impact in many games for England this year. Though Frank Lampard scored a hat trick for Chelsea against Bolton, Young is most likely to start ahead of the Chelsea midfielder for this key fixture.
Theo Walcott (Winger)
Theo Walcott did not have a great game against Tottenham at White Hart Lane and will hope for better fortune in this game against Montenegro. The Arsenal winger is a player of huge potential but is not a natural winger and could develop into a central striker in the future. However, Capello is likely to use him on the right against Montenegro and his pace could be utilized to good effect on counterattacks.
It is evident that Walcott has made good progress in the last 18 months and has worked on his decision-making and finishing as well. The England winger will be keen to impress for England and he will probably get opportunities under Capello, who did drop him for the World Cup. If Montenegro does play a very attacking game, then Walcott could be the key with his immense pace on counterattacks.
Stewart Downing (Winger)
Stewart Downing moved to Liverpool in the summer after a protracted transfer saga and the left-footed winger has made a decent start to the season, though he could still perform better. One of the major reasons he moved to the club was that it would enhance his chances of playing for England and he could be starting alongside former Aston Villa teammate Ashley Young against Montenegro.
There is a good chance that Capello might utilize James Milner ahead of Walcott or Downing but Milner has not had regular playing time for Manchester City and Capello could start both Downing and Walcott, which will certainly be threatening for the opposition. Downing, Young and Walcott will interchange their positions which will make it hard for defenders to mark the players and Wayne Rooney should also benefit from their movement.
11. Wayne Rooney (Striker)
Wayne Rooney endured a difficult period during the previous season but he has returned to his best and is arguably enjoying the best football in his career. He is not only scoring plenty of goals but also he is involved in creating many goal-scoring opportunities for his teammates and with strikers like Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck playing ahead of him at United, he can go deep and create more space for himself as well.
Capello could utilize him as a lone striker with Young playing just behind the striker and though there will be defenders who will be marking Rooney tightly, the Manchester United forward will be difficult for defenders with his off-the-ball movement and could play deeper allowing Theo Walcott the space to run behind the defense with his pace. Rooney is certainly England's best attacking player and Capello will hope that the England striker continues his impressive form with a good performance against Montenegro.