Perhaps fittingly for a match with such major ramifications, the buildup to Montenegro’s clash with England has been dominated by a war of words between the two teams.
Montenegro go into the match two points clear of their opponents at the top of Group H and manager Branko Brnovic reacted defiantly to questions over the pitch in Podgorica.
"I read in the press today statements from some English players about the way the pitch will look,” he said, according to ESPN. “As far as I know, [it is] the English [who] have always favored long passes. This supports the idea that they're more scared of this game than we are.'' Unsurprisingly, England captain Steven Gerrard responded by suggesting that it is Montenegro that are apprehensive ahead of Tuesday’s meeting.
"For their manager to say the things he's said shows we've got them exactly where we want them," Gerrard said, according to BBC Sport.
"They seem to be more interested in saying things and doing all the talking.
"Talking doesn't win you football matches. Playing well wins you matches.”
The two countries have plenty of recent history on the pitch, having also met in qualification for Euro 2012. Montenegro secured two draws against their more illustrious opponents then, including a 2-2 result at home that is remembered for a sending off for Wayne Rooney.
Those points helped the nation of just 625,000 people claim a playoff spot in just their second tournament as an independent nation. This time around, with the in-form Serie A duo of Juventus’s Mirko Vucinic and Fiorentina’s Stevan Jovetic leading the line, they hope to go one better and qualify automatically.
Montenegro come into the match unbeaten in qualifying and have won their last four competitive matches without conceding a goal. A late strike from Vucinic in Moldova last Friday secured a precious three points, but they will be without the suspended duo of Savo Pavicevic and Milorad Pekovic on Tuesday.
As expected, England had a far simpler time in putting San Marino to the sword with eight answered goals. Manager Roy Hodgson is expected to make several changes to his team, with Gerrard and Ashley Cole set to return. Other candidates to come into the starting lineup include Glen Johnson, James Milner, Michael Carrick and Danny Welbeck.
D: Jovanovic, Basa, Savic, Volkov
M: Beciraj, Vukcevic, Boksovic, Zverotic
F: Jovetic, Vucinic
D: Johnson, Smalling, Lescott, Cole
M: Gerrard, Cleverley
Milner, Rooney, Young
Prediction: Hodgson’s reputation suggests that he will set his side up with a focus on strict organization and keeping things tight, with both wide midfielders likely to be chosen on their willingness to track back. The loss of jack Wilshere is a significant one with the young Arsenal midfielder able to retain the ball and drive forward under pressure like no other current English player.
Montenegro will be workmanlike, with the exception of their two gifted forwards who could pose England’s understrength center-back pairing serious problems if they see enough of the ball.
But, ultimately, both sides may not be too disappointed to emerge with a draw.
Montenegro 1-1 England
Where to watch: The World Cup qualifier will kick-off from the Podgorica City Stadium at 4 p.m. ET. A live stream will be provided by ESPN3.