Roy Hodgson has insisted that England will not take on Ukraine with a cautious mindset, despite knowing that a draw in Kiev will leave his side in pole position to claim a top spot in their group and secure a trip to Brazil.
After a 4-0 win over Moldova last week, England lead Group H on goal difference from Montenegro, who have played a game more, and by a solitary point from Tuesday’s opponents. There is little room for error in the attempt to avoid a potentially nervy two-legged playoff in order to make it to next year’s World Cup.
"It is two teams in form and two teams who are capable of winning the Group, so in that respect it is a cup final," Hodgson said. "When you play in cup finals you have to win them by playing well enough. You don't win them by being cautious. You need to get on the front foot and make sure you score more goals than the opposition.
"This is a vital fixture,” he added. “The team who wins the game will have a great chance of qualifying. The team who loses the game will find themselves with their backs against the wall and will also have the chance of winning the group taken out of their hands."
Frank Lampard will win his 100th cap in Kiev’s Olympic Stadium, but Hodgson faces the crucial fixture without a host of players. Danny Welbeck has joined the likes of Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge on the sidelines after picking up a harsh booking against Moldova. With few alternatives at his disposal, the England boss has confirmed that the only change to the team will be the man who comes in for Welbeck. Despite Hodgson’s bold claims about being positive, the player likely to feature on the left of midfield is the defensively-diligent James Milner.
The Manchester City man may be needed against a Ukraine team on a run of four-straight victories since Mykhaylo Fomenko took charge. As they did in Euro 2012, the side’s creativity relies heavily on widemen Yevhen Konoplyanka and Andriy Yarmolenko. There is a greater forward intent about the side, though, than under predecessor Olhg Blokhin, as testified by a 4-0 win in Montenegro in June and a 9-0 victory over group whipping boys San Marino on Friday. Another potential threat to England, Roman Zozulya is set to return to the side after missing the San Marino clash through suspension.
D: Fedetskiy, Rakitskiy, Khacheridi, Shevchuk
M: Tymoschuk, Edmar
Yarmolenko, Zozulya, Konoplyanka
D: Walker, Cahill, Jagielka, Cole
M: Walcott, Gerrard, Lampard, Wilshere, Milner
Where to watch: The World Cup qualifier will kick-off from the Olympic Stadium in Kiev at 2.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Gol TV. A live stream, which you view at your own discretion, will be available here.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.