England will hope to avoid exerting themselves against San Marino on Friday before a pivotal World Cup qualifying clash with Montenegro.
Roy Hodgson’s team are the highest-ranked nation in Group H, but sit two points behind leaders Montenegro after winning two and drawing two of their first four matches.
Routine 5-0 wins away to Moldova and at home to San Marino were to be expected, but it is the dropped points in 1-1 draws at home to Ukraine and away to Poland which have England’s qualification campaign in jeopardy already.
On Friday Hodgson takes his team to the Stadio Olimpico di Serravalle, where they will be expected to earn all three points with ease against the part-time players of San Marino.
The real battle will then take place at Stadion Pod Goricom, the scene of Wayne Rooney’s 2011 sending off in European Championship qualifying, an incident which ruled the Manchester United striker out of England’s first two matches at Euro 2012.
Rooney netted twice, including a penalty, during England’s comprehensive victory over San Marino at Wembley Stadium in October.
Fellow United frontman Danny Welbeck also claimed a brace and the two forwards can expect to be in contention to start both matches this week, with Tottenham’s Jermain Defoe and Daniel Sturridge of Liverpool the other strikers named in the squad.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was also on the scoresheet in the first match against San Marino and the Arsenal midfielder is back in Hodgson’s squad again this time around.
But the 19-year-old has struggled for regular football at the Emirates Stadium this season, and is unlikely to feature from the start in either game.
Veteran midfielders Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard will vie for a central role with the likes of James Milner, Michael Carrick and Scott Parker, who is fit again and back in the national team set-up for the first time since Euro 2012.
Arsenal’s Theo Walcott and Manchester United’s Ashley Young provide wide attacking options, while Everton stalwart Leon Osman is in contention for a first competitive appearance at the age of 31.
At the back, Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand was selected for the first time since 2011 only to withdraw due to fitness concerns.
In Ferdinand’s absence, Joleon Lescott of Manchester City and Chelsea’s Gary Cahill are likely to start at the heart of defence, ahead of United’s Chris Smalling and Spurs man Steven Caulker.
Chelsea’s Ashley Cole and Leighton Baines of Everton will compete for the left-back role, while Tottenham’s Kyle Walker appears to be Hodgson’s first choice at right-back, ahead of Liverpool counterpart Glen Johnson.
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