Domestic football takes a break this weekend, with England hosting Bulgaria in their first of two games during the international break.
The Three Lions have collected two wins from their opening two fixtures of Euro 2020 qualifying and now welcome the Lions – confusing, right – to Wembley on Saturday afternoon. Raheem Sterling hit a hat-trick as Gareth Southgate’s men beat the Czech Republic 5-0 in round one of Group A, though he only managed the one against Montenegro three days later.
A double from Ross Barkley helped England to another five-goal destruction in that away match, with Harry Kane and Michael Keane also on target in a 5-1 victory in Podgorica. Bulgaria have played twice as many games in the pool, yet sit four points behind their weekend opponents.
Check out 90min’s preview of the encounter below.
Where to Watch
|When is Kick Off?||Saturday 7 September|
|What Time is Kick Off?||17:00 (BST)|
|Where is it Played?||Wembley Stadium|
|TV Channel/Live Stream?||ITV 1|
Where to Buy Tickets
Tickets for the game are, as ever, available on both teams’ official national team websites, though membership is required in order to purchase. In terms of resale, both teams provide the option to make season tickets available for others to use, if a supporter is unable to attend the game themselves.
Leicester City’s mercurial playmaker James Maddison is in line for his international debut this week having been called up to Southgate’s squad, along with fellow Three Lions newbie Mason Mount.
The pair have both played for the Under-21s in the past and were involved in training with the senior side last October, but failed to make the squaf for Nations League clashes with Spain and Croatia.
Defender Tyrone Mings is included for the first time, as was Manchester United right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka before an injury forced him to withdraw. A back issue has seen the 21-year-old return to the north-west.
Nick Pope is back in contention following an impressive start to 2019/20, whilst Atletico Madrid summer signing Kieran Trippier has been selected over the experienced Kyle Walker.
84-times capped winger Ivelin Popov will likely edge closer to a century of appearances for the visitors after he was chosen by coach Krasimir Balakov, though the 53-year-old has not enlisted any players from the English leagues.
|England||Pickford; Alexander-Arnold, Keane, Maguire, Chilwell; Rice, Henderson, Barkley; Sancho, Sterling, Kane.|
|Bulgaria||Ivanov; Popov, Dimitrov, Bozhikov, Nedyalkov; Popov, Malinov, Sarmov, Marcelinho, Wanderson; Despodov.|
Head to Head Record
England have never been defeated by the eastern Europeans, triumphing in six of their match-ups and drawing a further four.
The most recent of those victories came in 2011, Wayne Rooney scoring two of the goals in a comfortable 3-0 win in Sofia.
Gary Cahill broke the deadlock after less than a quarter of an hour at Vasil Levski Stadium. The centre-back was found by Gareth Barry in the box having evaded his mark before stabbing home to open his account for the Three Lions.
Rooney wrapped up the three points as the striker rose highest to flick a corner beyond Nikolay Mihaylov, with a straightforward finish on the stroke of half-time taking the game far out of the Bulgarians’ reach.
Southgate has overseen a footballing revolution with England, transforming them from a group of supposedly overpaid prima donnas to the country’s darlings in his three years at the helm.
However, the boss couldn’t work his magic in Portugal over the off-season as his side went down 3-1 versus the Netherlands after extra time in the Nations League semi final, though they secured a bronze medal courtesy of a penalty-shootout win over Switzerland.
With regards to qualifiers for the European Championship next summer, the Three Lions have been impeccable.
Manchester City goal-machine Sterling has finally transferred his club form to the international stage as he scored four across the two opening fixtures in Group A. However, the forward is not the only one dazzling in white.
Barkley has been a powerhouse in the middle of the park and Borussia Dortmund starlet Jadon Sancho looks equally fearsome out wide, whilst neither Declan Rice nor Michael Keane appear out of place amongst their more renowned teammates.
Things are considerably less cheerful in Bulgaria, with Balakov watching his recruits lose a tight affair 2-1 in the Czech Republic, before a remarkable 3-2 home defeat at the hands of minnows Kosovo.
Both games took place as England locked horns with the Dutch and Swiss, respectively, leaving the Lions on just two points despite having played at least a fixture more than the three teams above them in the pool.
Here’s a look at the two side’s last five results:
|England 2-1 Croatia (18/11/2018)||Bulgaria 1-1 Slovenia (19/11/2018)|
|England 5-0 Czech Republic (22/3)||Bulgaria 1-1 Montenegro (22/3)|
|Montenegro 1-5 England (25/3)||Kosovo 1-1 Bulgaria (25/3)|
|Netherlands 3-1 England (06/6)||Czech Republic 2-1 Bulgaria (07/6)|
|Switzerland 0-0 England *(5-6) (09/6)||Bulgaria 2-3 Kosovo (10/6)|
The nations’ contrasting fortunes in their encounters with Montenegro and the Czechs make an England victory highly probable, as does the fiercely-competitive nature of Southgate’s squad.
There are numerous thrilling talents lighting up St. George’s Park and it would only take a handful of them to shred this vulnerable Bulgarian outfit.
Expect the Three Lions to win this one at a canter and likewise expect a host of goals as they do it. Any number of the frontline could bolster their numbers for their country.
Prediction: England 4-0 Bulgaria