Bulgaria vs England
Who? Bulgaria vs England in European Championship Qualifying (Live on ITV 1)
Where? Vasil Levski National Stadium, Bulgaria
When? 19:45 GMT, Monday 14th October 2019
After Friday’s disappointing defeat to Czech Republic, England travel to Bulgaria needing a win to ease pressure of qualifying from Group A with Czech Republic and Kosovo making up ground.
Unfortunately, off-the-field matters have been a big talking point ahead of the game regarding racism. On the pitch for Bulgaria, however, the Balkan natives are struggling in the group. They have not won a single game in the group, with their last victory coming over a calendar year ago in the Nations League against Cyprus. Three draws and three defeats in six games means they won’t be qualifying, however, will probably up their game for the welcome of England.
There were mixed responses from many fans regarding England’s expectations and progress under Gareth Southgate when reflecting after Friday’s defeat. It may just have been a one off, with that defeat just being their first in qualifying for ten years. It could also be a sign of things to come, with England not completely set on a centre back partnership, formation, and balance in midfield. What seemed like a cruise through qualifying has now become something to think about for England who may need to look over their shoulder if they want to maintain top spot.
Bulgaria: Ronald Koeman does not have any injury setbacks to manage. The front line will probably remain similar as Ryan Babel and Memphis Depay will play up front with the young star Donyell Malen.
England: Michael O’Neill suffered a blow to his full back strength as Jamal Lewis is out with injury. Going forward, Conor Washington is out and the front line may contain Kyle Lafferty or Josh Magennis.
Bulgaria: Ivelin Popov
Gone are the days of Hristo Stoichkov and Dimitar Berbatov for Bulgaria. This current generation of players, mostly from the Bulgarian and Russian leagues, are mostly 30 or older. Including their captain and the key player Ivelin Popov. The attacking and creative midfielder, who use to player just off the striker, has a steady record as a seasoned pro. He has 91 goals across 421 domestic games in all competitions. His international record is solid too, with 16 goals in 87 caps. This is despite being banned from playing for Bulgaria in his career.
England: Tyrone Mings
Southgate is set to give the Aston Villa defender a big opportunity to stake a claim for being a part of the back line going forward. He is set to play at centre back alongside Harry Maguire, and will need to play much better than out-of-form Michael Keane. Southgate is putting a lot of faith into the 26-year-old, with youngster Fikayo Tomori not far from getting a chance himself. Can he protect the back line better and be a better distributor of the ball into the midfield?
In the 11 games played in all competitions, England have won seven and drawn four. The most recently game was a 4-0 victory at Wembley Stadium.
In games that England have won, they have kept a clean sheet in every single game. Bulgaria have only ever scored twice against England, once in 1999 in a 1-1 draw and way back in 1968 in a friendly match.
England have scored at least three goals in the last three encounters between the countries.
*odds as of October 14th at 16:21 GMT and subject to change