By Laurie Fitzgerald
Tonight sees England take on Montenegro in Podgorica knowing that at least a draw will secure their place at Euro 2012 next summer.
Fabio Capello‘s men currently sit six points clear of this evening’s opponents going into the final two round of fixtures.
But England will be well aware that with this fixture being their final qualifying game, Montenegro can still technically finish above them if they cause a shock.
A win tonight followed up by three points in Switzerland on Tuesday means that Montenegro would win the group as they’d have a better head-to-head record, leaving England to try and qualify through the play-offs.
So England cannot afford to be complacent and make sure that they don’t need any favours from the Swiss next week.
Capello has caused a stir going into the match with his squad selection, with some notable absentees from the 24-man squad.
The Italian has left out the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Steven Gerrard, Joleon Lescott, Daniel Sturridge and Jermain Defoe as he keeps the faith in those that have performed in recent games.
Ferdinand is the biggest shock having worked his way back to full fitness, and it is a dramatic fall from grace for the man that was still England skipper only six months ago.
He has been ousted by the likes of Manchester United team-mates Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, who have filled in admirably in the absence of the more experienced Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.
Jones’ remarkable rise could now see him replace Gary Cahill at the heart of the defence and partner captain John Terry for this crucial game.
Gerrard’s exclusion is more understandable with the influential Liverpool midfielder only just returning from a lengthy lay-off and admitting that this week’s international duty has come round too soon for him.
The absence of Lescott, Sturridge and Defoe is more surprising as all three have been in impressive form for Manchester City, Chelsea and Tottenham respectively.
Bobby Zamora was the selection that caught the eye, as the Fulham striker is now fully fit having put the heartache of his broken leg from last campaign behind him.
While Montenegro are set to pose a much sterner test than their last away trip in Bulgaria, England are expected to line up with a similar team that won comfortably in Sofia last month, but with a tweak in the formation.
Having played around with different strategies such as 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3, the Italian may now resort back to 4-4-2 if he decides to play someone up top with Wayne Rooney.
Joe Hart will start in goal, with Terry and Jones set to get the nod at centre-back and Ashley Cole performing his usual duties at left-back.
There is an interesting selection headache at right-back with both Micah Richards and Kyle Walker impressing in recent weeks and vying to replace the injured Smalling, who played in that position in the previous two qualifiers.
Scott Parker is set to start ahead of Gareth Barry in the holding midfield role instead of alongside him - then there is a battle for who will be selected in the more attacking central midfield role.
It seems that the supposedly finished Frank Lampard will start with Parker having scored four goals in his last two games for Chelsea after being dropped for the Bulgaria game five weeks ago.
Lampard’s experience could play a big part in what is sure to be an intense atmosphere, and it will be a surprise if the 33 year-old is left out of the starting XI.
Ashley Young seems a certainty after his excellent season so far on the wing, and Stewart Downing is expected to fill the other wide berth after being one of the few to impress in their narrow win at home to Wales last time out, although Theo Walcott has been a regular throughout the campaign and may edge out the Liverpool man.
Rooney picks himself up front having been arguably the player of the season so far in the Premier League and will spearhead the English attack later on.
But the surprise could be that club team-mate Danny Welbeck is played alongside him, having developed a clear understanding whilst playing together at United.
For Capello, tonight is the perfect opportunity to wrap up a smooth passage to Poland & Ukraine next year.
However, defeat could create a far trickier path to get there.
So what do you think? Will England qualify this evening? Or will they get caught out by Montenegro? Leave a comment and let us know your views.