England go to Ukraine knowing a win would make them firm favourites to qualify automatically for the World Cup, but the quality of opposition they face coupled with the loss of their top three strikers points to a fourth draw in eight Group H matches for the visitors at 23/10.
The hosts are 9/5 to beat Roy Hodgson’s injury-hit side, who are 29/20 favourites, but taking a point away from Kiev would surely be an achievement, with Danny Welbeck joining Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge on the absentee list through suspension.
With two home games left in qualifying after this fixture and safe in the knowledge they will go top if they just avoid defeat here, a share of the spoils would be no disaster for Hodgson’s team.
England secured a 1-1 draw against Ukraine with an 87th-minute Frank Lampard penalty and considering all of their games against the top teams in Group H so far ended in that scoreline, the 5/1 on a repeat is a decent bet.
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Ukraine have looked like the strongest side in the group at times and are in much better recent form than their current opponents, with four wins in their last four qualifiers.
During that time England have registered two draws and wins against Moldova and San Marino and there were many more attacking options available to the manager for those games.
Rooney’s absence will be most keenly felt as the Manchester United striker broke the deadlock in England’s 1-1 draws in Poland and Montenegro and is their top scorer in qualifying with five goals.
Rickie Lambert has contributed well in his two games for the Three Lions, but Ukraine away is a much different proposition to the Scotland friendly or Moldova at Wembley.
Since their 1-0 reverse at home to Montenegro last October, Mykhalo Fomenko’s side have ruthlessly redeemed themselves with consecutive away victories.
A 3-1 win in Poland was followed by the 4-0 thrashing of Montenegro in Podgorica, with the Yellow-Blues leaking just two goals in qualifying in the past 11 months.