Gareth Southgate has warned his England players to keep their cool in the intimidating cauldron awaiting them here in Montenegro tonight.
The England manager is set to hand Declan Rice his full international debut in a three-man midfield alongside Jordan Henderson and Ross Barkley. Dele Alli is likely to drop to the bench and Eric Dier is ruled out of a potentially explosive Euro 2020 qualifier through injury.
England’s players have held discussions about how to combat the hostility they face at the Podgorica City Stadium.
They were pelted with missiles when the nations clashed in 2013 and Wayne Rooney was sent off in 2011 after reacting to provocation by Montenegro players.
Southgate said: ‘It’s something we’ve talked about a lot. It’s really intense. Our undoing has often been a lack of discipline in matches. They have to respond in the right way, stay calm.
‘A lot of times, going down to 10 men affects the result of games. We have to make sure we don’t allow them that opportunity. To be a top team, we’ve got to adapt to every environment we go into. The only way they can learn and improve is to go through these experiences.’
Preparations for tonight’s match have been so in-depth that even protocol around how to react if a flare is thrown on to the pitch has been discussed and Southgate added: ‘We’ve spoken about not going over to deal with flares on your own. It’s the referee’s responsibility to deal with anything thrown on the field. We have to alert him to it. There is a danger in picking those things up to remove them yourself. We’ve made the players aware of that.’
Kyle Walker gave a personal account of his experience of taking part in that 2013 game in Podgorica during Saturday night’s team meeting. Tensions in the stadium could be fuelled by concerns that around 300 England supporters have bought tickets in non-England areas of the 15,000 capacity stadium.
Southgate will make a late check on Jadon Sancho’s fitness after the forward complained of tightness following Friday’s win over the Czech Republic.
Callum Hudson-Odoi is on stand-by if Sancho is unfit to start. Henderson, set for his 50th cap, has a slight ankle injury but he is expected to start.
Southgate is keen not to overload Alli after injury.Daily Mail