Allen Hamilton

What: UEFA Euro 2012 Qualifiers Group G
Who: England (2nd; 6 Points) vs Montenegro (1st; 9 Points)
When: Tuesday 12th October, 2010, at 20:00 UK Time
Where: Wembley Stadium, London, England

Establishing Group Superiority

When the draw for Group G was made, England coach Fabio Capello would have been forgiven for pointing to Switzerland and Bulgaria as the country’s biggest threats. It is therefore something of a surprise that Montenegro are looking like England’s biggest test so far and rivals for the group leadership. Capello was happy to see his side shrug off allegations about Wayne Rooney’s private life and the striker’s troubles on the pitch in a comprehensive 3-1 victory in Switzerland in September; he will hope for more of the same here.

Capello will be forced to shuffle his pack to deal with a spate of unwelcome injuries to key men too. The absence of John Terry means that more pressure will fall on Rio Ferdinand – who has been handed the captaincy – the Manchester United centre back who still has few games under his belt after his own return from the sidelines. The Italian coach will also be without Phil Jagielka, the Everton defender, and Sunderland striker Darren Bent.

A Young Nation’s Biggest Test Yet

Montenegro only played their first proper international as full members of UEFA in 2007, making the progress seen since that time truly remarkable. Of course, the country was not starting from scratch, and instantly co-opted many players who had previously turned out for Serbia and Montenegro at the 2006 World Cup, the most talented being Roma striker Mirko Vucinic. With a talent pool previously intertwined with that of Serbia, Montenegro had a good base of players from which to start their push as an independent nation.

Coached by experienced Croat Zlatko Kranjcar, the father of Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Niko Kranjcar, Montenegro have been the surprise package of Group G so far. Having won all their three qualifiers, there is now a real feeling building that the country are not just there to make up the numbers. "After a good start, I am now seriously thinking about second place and the playoffs", said the coach, while warning: "I know England will be ready for us."

Recent form

England 2-1 Hungary (11/08; Friendly)
England 4-0 Bulgaria
(03/09; Euro 2012 Qualifiers – Group G)
Switzerland 1-3 England
(07/09; Euro 2012 Qualifiers – Group G)

Montenegro 1-0 Wales
(03/09; Euro 2012 Qualifiers – Group G)
Bulgaria 0-1 Montenegro
(07/09; Euro 2012 Qualifiers – Group G)
Montenegro 1-0 Switzerland (08/10; Euro 2012 Qualifiers – Group G)

Players to watch

England – Steven Gerrard: A game with England offers the Liverpool midfielder a chance to forget his troubles at club level and also to be part of a team which, with good reason, is back on a high. Gerrard will give up the captaincy to Rio Ferdinand and it will be interesting to see how he responds. At his best, the midfielder can drive England forward and, with possession likely to be plentiful, he will have plenty of chances to crack a trademark screaming shot towards goal.

Montenegro – Mirko Vucinic: The 27-year-old striker is the man Montenegro look to for that little bit of brilliance and some real potency in and around the box. Vicinic has established himself as a forward to be feared in Serie A with Roma and last season notched 19 goals in all competitions for the Italian club. Chances are likely to be at a premium for the visitors at Wembley, so Vucinic must take any he gets.

Match prediction

Montenegro will arrive at Wembley high on confidence and no doubt look to frustrate the home side. All their qualification wins so far have been by a single goal and it is hard to see them breaching the England backline on more than one occasion. Ultimately, England have the firepower to put Montenegro to the sword, perhaps even effectively settling matters by half time. A 3-0 home win looks a likely outcome.