England head to Sofia for their Euro 2012 qualifier against Bulgaria on Friday night with more than just three points up for grabs.
The Three Lions have a battered reputation that still requires repairing from the World Cup and some inconsistent displays of late, but they have the perfect opportunity to inject some fresh impetus into their stuttering qualifying campaign.
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Fabio Capello’s side sit atop of Group G with five games played, but draws with Montenegro and Switzerland have left them level on 11 points with Montegro and in need of some breathing space, something a solid win against Bulgaria followed by three points against Wales four days later will afford them.
The main worry for the England boss remains Darren Bent, who was forced to sit out of training at the Vasil Levski stadium on Thursday with a groin injury which may keep him out of the game, scuppering Capello’s plans to partner him with Wayne Rooney in attack.
The Italian appears to leaning towards a straight 4-4-2 for the game, which means that Jermain Defoe could be in line for a call up, and having bagged a hat-trick the last time the two teams met in an easy 4-0 victory, the Spurs hitman will be hopeful of finding the net once more.
United youngsters Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are said to have made a good impression during training and could start the game with Smalling at right-back with Jones, who is in line to win his first cap for his country, partnering skipper John Terry.
Scott Parker and Gareth Barry are battling it out for a starting spot in midfield alongside Frank Lampard, with Theo Walcott and Ashley Young out wide.
The home side meanwhile will be looking to kickstart their campaign having picked up only one win, with coach Lothar Matthaus knowing that defeat on Friday will all but end his side’s hopes of qualification.
Premier League stalwarts Stiliyan and Martin Petrov will be hoping to spring a surprise on the country where they ply their trade, while the international retirement of Dimitar Berbatov means that Ivelin Popov will carry his country’s hopes of finding the net.