Andros Townsend made a dream debut in England’s 4-1 win against Montenegro, scoring one goal and creating another, but the temptation to hand the Spurs winger his second start against Poland in the final World Cup 2014 qualifier should be resisted in favour of a James Milner recall.
An England win at odds of 11/25 would see Roy Hodgson’s side qualify automatically for Brazil next summer, but a Poland victory at 11/1 or a draw at 5/1 would almost certainly see the Three Lions facing the prospect of a play-off, with Ukraine practically guaranteed three points in San Marino.
The loss of Kyle Walker through suspension means Hodgson needs to weigh up his options on the right flank.
Spurs pair Walker and Townsend played together for the eighth time this season at right-back and right-wing respectively against Montenegro and the understanding they have developed at club level enabled excellent interplay between them, with the former’s pace providing an outlet for the latter on the overlap.
Against Poland the more defensively minded Phil Jones is expected to fill in for Walker and Leighton Baines’ marauding presence at left-back could see England’s attack focused on that side if Milner is brought in to provide extra defensive cover on the right.
After the boss’ shock and awe tactics against Montenegro, England have lost the element of surprise.
Townsend featured in an attacking four that pressed Montenegro high up the pitch from the start last time out, but a repeat of that trick must be anticipated by the Poles and manager Waldemar Fornalik will surely adjust his pre-match gameplan accordingly.
With 17 goals in their last seven games Poland have individuals capable of getting in behind teams and Milner can help to counter the threat posed by the likes of Borussia Dortmund’s Robert Lewandowski, who has scored six times in seven Bundesliga games this season.
Milner’s experience at the business end of the last qualifying campaign could prove crucial at Wembley.
In Fabio Capello’s last qualifying campaign as England manager, Milner was a key player for the Italian and the Three Lions won three games and drew just once when the Man City man featured, while his omission saw them share the spoils home and away against Montenegro.
Despite the wealth of talent brought in at Man City since the midfielder joined the blue half of Manchester in 2010, successive Etihad chiefs have seen the player’s worth to the team – with new City boss Manuel Pellegrini preferring Milner to flying winger Jesus Navas on occasion this season – and in an England team already packed with attacking talent, Hodgson should find room for the solid 27-year-old in his first 11.