England round off the March international break with the biggest test of their three fixtures as they face Poland in their third World Cup qualifier on Wednesday night.
The Three Lions have made it two wins from two thus far, comfortably dispatching San Marino and Albania, but now face their toughest match in the World Cup qualifying group and need to win in order to prove their quality against improved competition.
Poland haven’t quite hit the ground running as strongly as England but remain unbeaten heading into the clash, with one win and one draw so far in their two qualifiers played.
Here’s 90min‘s preview of the clash.
When is kick off? Wednesday 31 March
What time is kick off? 19:45 (BST)
Where is it played? Wembley Stadium
TV Channel? ITV 1, ITV Hub
Referee? Bjorn Kuipers
Gareth Southgate has confirmed that Nick Pope is to start all three games throughout the break, giving him the chance to stake his claim ahead of the Euros. Marcus Rashford and Bukayo Saka withdrew from the squad without playing any games, but England are otherwise fully fit.
Luke Shaw has settled back into the setup with ease and performed well against Albania, thus is likely to keep his place also.
The big blow for Poland is the loss of talisman Robert Lewandowski, who has withdrawn from their final fixture with a knee injury. You can breathe again now, England fans.
Poland remain strong elsewhere, though, and can compensate for Lewandowski’s absence with Krzysztof Piatek and Arkadiusz Milik in attack. Wojciech Szczesny also returns to London.
England: Pope; Walker, Stones, Maguire, Shaw; Rice, Ward-Prowse, Mount; Sterling, Kane, Foden.
Poland: Szczesny; Bereszynski, Bednarek, Glik, Rybus; Krychowiak, Moder, Jozwiak; Zielinski; Piatek, Milik.
Albania 0-2 England – World Cup qualifier (28/3)
England 5-0 San Marino – World Cup qualifier (25/3)
England 4-0 Iceland – Nations League (18/11/20)
Belgium 2-0 England – Nations League (15/11/20)
England 0-1 Denmark – Nations League (14/10/20)
Poland 3-0 Andorra – World Cup qualifier (28/3)
Hungary 3-3 Poland – World Cup qualifier (25/3)
Poland 1-2 Netherlands – Nations League (18/11/20)
Italy 2-0 Poland – Nations League (15/11/20)
Poland 2-0 Bosnia & Herzegovina – Nations League (14/10/20)
With this being the final fixture before England next meet up ready to board the plane for Euro 2020, a win is crucial for momentum – and, y’know, staying top of the group in World Cup qualifying.
These two should end up being comfortably first and second in their pool, but England will not want to risk slipping into the lottery of the play-offs by finishing second, so opening up an early points gap here will go some way to helping them.
No eyes are really on the 2022 tournament yet, however, and Southgate’s Three Lions must focus on putting in a good performance to end the break on a high. While Poland are without Lewandowski, they remain a big threat; six goals across their last two games is an impressive feat.
Top spot in Group I is the reward for the winner of this contest, and a win against England would be huge for Poland in making amends for a disappointing draw in their opening fixture. No Lewandowski will hurt them, though.
Prediction: England 2-1 Poland