Monday, April 12, 2021

Southgate warns England not to take Lewandowski-less Poland lightly

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 30 Mar 2021

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England boss Gareth Southgate expects Poland to be highly motivated for Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier at Wembley in the absence of captain and leading goalscorer Robert Lewandowski.

The Bayern Munich striker sustained a knee injury in Sunday’s 3-0 win over Andorra – a game in which he scored twice – and it was confirmed by his club on Tuesday that he will miss the next month.

Lewandowski has scored 66 goals in 118 appearances for Poland, including nine goals in his last nine starts in all competitions.

But Southgate rejected the notion that England will be boosted by the prolific striker’s absence for the clash between Group I’s top two seeds.

“From our perspective, you’re going to have players who are hungry to fill that opportunity,” Southgate said at a pre-match news conference on Tuesday.

“They’re a good side with some good players. They will all fight for the cause and they’re a good football team. They’ve got high motivation. 

“We’ve got to keep improving. We’ve shown a good level and we’ve got to keep stepping up.

“I understand the question, but I think Poland have excellent players. We would be naive to think they are less of a threat. 

“If we think of taking our foot off the gas, we’ll get hurt. Of course, the public want to see the star names, but a team isn’t about one player.”

England will be looking to make it three wins from three in their March fixtures after following up a 5-0 win over San Marino with a 2-0 victory in Albania on Sunday.

Mason Mount was among the scorers in Tirana and has enjoyed an impressive campaign at club level with Chelsea.

He has played the most minutes of any Chelsea player (2,231) this term, while his 69 chances created is 41 more than anyone else. 

The 168 passes Mount has played into the opposition box is also by far the most among Chelsea players, form that he has carried over onto the international stage.

There had been doubts over the midfielder’s fitness after he sat out part of training on Tuesday, but Southgate expects to have one of his key men available for the visit of Poland.

“He didn’t warm up with the team but he did the rest of the session with his team-mates,” Southgate said. “He should be fine. They are all available as far as we are aware.

“We’ve managed the team through the matches and the training sessions. We’ve been very cautious. We’ve got to balance that freshness. 

“We were very happy with the performance the other day. Around Europe, most countries have taken a similar slant.”

Poland may be without their leading marksman for the game, but England have a fit and firing Harry Kane to lead their line.

The Tottenham striker’s club future has been the subject of much speculation during the international break, but Southgate reiterated his captain will not be distracted by the rumours.

“He’s so focused. I had a chat with him and he’s very positive about the club,” Southgate said. 

“He was talking about being a few points off the Champions League, into the EFL Cup final. I’ve got no worries about Harry Kane. He’s a fantastic professional.

“Harry is highly motivated. All players want to win. He’s got an opportunity with his club to do that.”

Kane has scored on six days of the week for England but has never managed to do so on a Wednesday, failing in three different games on that day so far. 

Only Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney have scored on all seven of the days of the week for the Three Lions.

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