England faces a tricky trip to Kiev this evening to face the Ukraine in a vital World Cup qualifier.
The visitors are currently top of the group, but a victory for the home side could propel them above the Three Lions and to the top of the group.
That means that England need to avoid defeat at all costs. A defeat would leave Roy Hodgson’s team in the unwanted position of having to rely on favours from elsewhere.
England were expected to cruise through this group, but have hit a few bumps along the way.
England have had a recent habit of leaving it until the last few games of a qualification campaign to qualify for major tournaments and it looks like this campaign will be no different, if they qualify at all that is.
Ukraine have hit some very good form in recent games, winning four games out of four under Mykhaylo Fomenko. They have become the most dangerous side to England’s chances of automatic qualification for next year’s World Cup.
Previously it was perceived that it was Montenegro that would be the big danger in the group, but a good run of form has taken the Ukrainians to within a point of England in the group. Montenegro have also played a game more than both England and the Ukraine.
Recent encounters between these two nations have been very tight affairs. England defeated Ukraine on home soil 1-0 in the group stages of Euro 2012, but the home side pushed England hard and were denied what looked like a perfectly good goal.
The Ukraine went one better in the current qualifiers drawing 1-1 at Wembley. It took a late penalty from Frank Lampard to even rescue a point for the Three Lions.
No doubt the Ukrainians will head into this game in confident mood, especially on the back of Friday night’s 9-0 victory over San Marino. San Marino are one of Europe’s worst teams, but the victory will still have given the Ukraine team a boost ahead of the vital game against England.
The Ukraine team do seem in confident mood from the vibes and statements coming from their players. They really do believe that they can get that crucial victory they need to take control of the group.
The home side will be boosted by the fact England suddenly seem to be lacking strikers. The Three Lions go into the match with just two available strikers. The likes of Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge, Andy Carroll and Danny Welbeck are all unavailable for the clash.
Southampton striker Rickie Lambert will play in the lone striker role in just his third appearance and second start in an England shirt. England’s only other real striking option is Tottenham’s Jermain Defoe, who has spent much of the season sitting on the Spurs bench playing second fiddle to new signing Roberto Soldado.
Lambert is an intelligent player, but his lack of experience at international level may well be a big factor in how this game pans out.
I have to say I think this game may well result in a draw. The visitors know that a draw in the Ukraine would be enough to keep them in pole position and will sit back and attempt to hit the home side on the break.
Wingers James Milner and Theo Walcott especially will be vital to England’s cause in this evenings clash. Walcott has the ability to take England up the pitch and take the pressure off his defensive teammates, as the England defence are likely to come under periods of sustained pressure.
I definitely would not write-off a Ukrainian win, as they currently have really good momentum and are in top form. The clash will a very difficult for England and boss Roy Hodgson cannot take anything for granted against the very dangerous Ukrainians.
Can Ukraine upset England in Kiev this evening?