England recorded a comfortable 4-0 win against Moldova on Friday but face a much stiffer test when they travel to Kiev to take on World Cup qualification rivals Ukraine on Tuesday (19:45 BST, live on ITV1).
Victory over Moldova elevated England to the top of Group H following Montenegro’s 1-1 draw away in Poland. Roy Hodgson’s men lead the group on goal difference but have limited breathing space, with Ukraine just a point behind in third.
England made relatively light work of their visitors on Friday, with first half goals from Steven Gerrard, Rickie Lambert and Danny Welbeck establishing an advantage that Welbeck added to early in the second half. It was an easy cruise to victory thereafter.
Welbeck’s double took his season’s total for club and country to five in five appearances, but Hodgson will not be able to call on him on Tuesday after Welbeck picked up his second booking of the qualifying campaign.
Hodgson does, in fact, have a dearth of available strikers for Tuesday’s match. Injury ruled Wayne Rooney out of the squad, while Daniel Sturridge has failed to recover from the thigh strain that saw him miss out against Moldova and will not travel to Kiev. With Welbeck suspended, Lambert and Jermain Defoe are Hodgson’s only fit and available options.
With this in mind, it seems likely that Hodgson will employ a one striker system on Tuesday, either in a 4-4-1-1 or 4-3-3 formation. James Milner is expected to come into the side in place of Welbeck, while Theo Walcott will reprise his role on the right. Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Jack Wiltshire did well in midfield on Friday and are all likely to start.
England goalkeeper Joe Hart has not enjoyed the best start to the season, allowing James Morrison’s shot through his arms in England’s 3-2 friendly win over Scotland and looking shaky at club level for Manchester City, particularly from set-pieces. He went untested against Moldova but is likely to be much busier on Tuesday.
Ukraine come into the match in good spirits following a 9-0 thrashing of San Marino on Friday. They are the form team in the group, having won each of their last four qualifiers, including impressive victories away to Poland and Montenegro.
Their good form has coincided with the arrival of experienced coach Mykhaylo Fomenko. The 64-year old took charge in December after Ukraine had picked up just two points from three qualifiers and initiated an immediate turnaround, encouraging his players to play brave, committed football.
Ukraine were two up within the first ten minutes of Fomenko’s first competitive match in charge, a 3-1 victory away to Poland in March, and blew away Montenegro with a superb second half performance in a 4-0 win in June. They were relentless against San Marino on Friday, recording the biggest victory in the history of the national team.
There is greater fluidity to Ukraine’s play under Fomenko, facilitated by a surfeit of young attacking talent including Dynamo Kiev’s Andriy Yarmolenko and the Dnipro pair of Yevhen Konoplyanka and Roman Zozulya. The more experienced duo of Marko Devic and Yevhen Seleznyov are both in excellent form at club level and both scored on Friday.
Further back, there may be some concerns over goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov, who is never truly convincing dealing with set-pieces and has recently lost his place at Shakhtar Donetsk to the equally nervy Anton Kanibolotskiy. The likely defensive partnership of Evgen Khacheridi and Yaroslav Rakitskiy will need to be alert to shield him from danger.
Ukraine vs England Betting Tips Verdict
England would likely consider a draw to be good result, as it would leave their fate in their own hands ahead of next month’s final two qualifiers at home to Montenegro and Poland. Hodgson’s men are yet to beat anyone but the bottom two teams in the group, having drawn away to Montenegro and Poland, and at home to Ukraine.
Fomenko will push his team to claim all three points on Tuesday in order to move to the head of the group. They certainly have the necessary offensive options to trouble England, both from open play and set-pieces, where the consistent quality of Konoplyanka’s deliveries could well cause Hart some problems.
England may not always have been particularly impressive but they are yet to lose in seven matches this year and should have enough quality to secure a draw in Kiev.
- Back the draw @ best odds of 23/10 with BetVictor or Paddy Power.
- England have won at least one half of each of their seven qualifiers to date, including the away draws against Montenegro and Poland. Back England to win either half @ 17/20 with William Hill.