England face a trip to Bulgaria on Friday night in Group A of qualifying for Euro 2020. On paper, the game looks like it should be a walk in the park for the Three Lions. The home side are woefully out-of-form and cannot qualify from the group.
However, England suffered a 2-1 defeat in the Czech Republic last time out. The loss ended an incredible run of 43 unbeaten in qualifying for World Cups and European Championships. It also ended the Three Lions perfect start to their qualifying campaign.
Things have been too easy for England in Group A
In reality, things have just been too easy for England in Group A of qualifying. They had fired home at least four goals in each of their four qualifiers prior to defeat in the Czech Republic. To say they had it too easy is a major understatement.
This campaign is not a one-off though. The Three Lions seem to be flat-track bullies. They thrive in qualifying campaigns, but once they face a decent team in tournaments they fold. The Czech Republic are not a great team by any stretch of the imagination. However, they produced a good enough display to see off England, as they were highly complacent.
Defensive problems for Southgate
When asked about a possible switch back to a three-man central defensive after the defeat in Prague, England boss Gareth Southgate said he may consider a return to the system that worked so well during the World Cup.
The defensive displays of the last two games are probably enough for Southgate to consider every option available to him. The central defensive partnership of Michael Keane and Harry Maguire have looked shaky, to say the least. Keane, in particular, has struggled in recent matches. However, both players form is probably a reflection of their club form. The pair are playing for two of the biggest underperforming clubs in the Premier League in Everton and Manchester United.
Media reports suggest that Keane will lose his starting place to Aston Villa centre-back Tyrone Mings at the heart of the defence. Ben Chilwell will come into the starting line-up for the suspended Danny Rose. Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold is also threatening Kieran Trippier’s place on the other side of the defence.
With the midfield not great against the Czech Republic, Southgate will be keen for his side to produce a much-improved display against Bulgaria.
England likely to get back to winning ways in Sofia
It seems likely that England will produce an improved display from Friday night. The Three Lions are big favourites to record a victory against Bulgaria to continue their good qualification campaign in Group A of qualifying.
England usually makes easy work of these games in qualifying. They should still qualify for next years tournament with ease. However, the recent defeat against the Czech Republic shows that the current team still has plenty to prove at the top-level of the international game.
It also shows that England cannot afford complacency in qualifiers. It may be a useful lesson for Gareth Southgate and his team.
Will England get back to winning ways against Bulgaria?