After 5 months, an unforgettable Euro 2020 campaign, and the return of full capacity stadiums, England and Poland will face off again in Group I of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
This time Southgate’s men will make the trip to the Stadion Narodowy in Warsaw after the Poles made the trip across western Europe last March in what turned out to be a much tighter game than many would have anticipated.
The Three Lions were narrow 2-1 victors in the reverse fixture. An 85th minute thumping half volley from Harry Maguire turned out to be the only difference despite Poland being without their elite marksman, Robert Lewandowski.
However, the Bayern Munich talisman is available for the game tomorrow and is in typically fine goalscoring form after scoring a brace in just 45 minutes against San Marino in his sides 7-1 thrashing.
His national team boss Paulo Sousa has admitted the reliance his side has on the legendary striker.
“We want to compete against the best but know we don’t have the same level as England. If they lose a player, they have two or three of the same level. Here it’s just Robert.”
Despite Sousa’s comments Poland have shown they are capable of causing an upset even without Lewandowski, having been the only team to have scored against England so far during the qualifiers.
However, for Poland to get any result they will need to be at their very best.
After their tournament success and their dominant displays in the other two qualifiers this international break, England have become a team you would dread to play.
England have dominated possession and been defensively sound throughout the entire qualifiers topping the group by 5 points after an almost flawless campaign so far.
Poland will be well aware of the threat England possess in all attacking areas, but special attention should be made towards Manchester City winger Raheem Sterling.
The Jamaican born winger is expected to start along with the same lineup which started against Hungary after they had all been rested for the game against Andorra.
Sousa knows first-hand the threat Sterling carries, as he won the penalty which gave England the opener through some close control dribbling inside the box.
Sterling’s form for England has been undeniably excellent for some time now. Whether playing off the right to accommodate Grealish or the left where he is more naturally suited, his driving forward with the ball and goalscoring prowess makes it difficult for any defender to deal with.
It will be difficult for the Polish defence to deal with Sterling because once you double up on him you leave spaces free for other elite attacking players such as Jack Grealish and Harry Kane to work their magic.
We’ve seen teams defend very deep in recent games against England to shut off the space. But, this hasn’t worked either, as they are eventually broken down.
Therefore it will be interesting to see what defensive approach Poland go with this time.
So, whilst this game is by no means a guaranteed three points, as fixtures against minos such as other Group I participants San Marino and Andorra are often dubbed, if Southgate’s men play as they normally do they should have no problems securing a victory on Wednesday night.
However, it’s never that simple when the opposition has a striker as potent as Lewandowski.
The Poles will be well up for the game as they sit just one point above Albania in third place in Group I, whilst England can put themselves in a very favourable position to finish in top spot and achieve qualification for Qatar 2022.