Gareth Southgate believes Kosovo will be England’s closest rivals as the road to EURO 2020 starts to heat up.
The two nations meet for the first time at senior level when they lock horns in Southampton on Tuesday evening.
- UEFA EURO 2020 Qualifier
- 7.45pm, Tuesday 10 September 2019
- St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton
- Live on ITV
And as Southgate’s Three Lions collected their third victory from three games in the group with a 4-0 win over Bulgaria on Saturday, the England manager admits his side are likely to find a tougher test in story at St. Mary’s.
“I’m expecting this game to be one of the toughest tests that we’ll face this season,” writes Southgate, in his programme notes for the game.
“Kosovo beat Czech Republic at the weekend, and I believe they look as likely to be the closest challengers to us in this group as anybody else.
“We’re going to be facing a very good team, with some decent individual players that are playing in some of the bigger leagues in Europe and, of course, they have tremendous pride in playing for what is a relatively newly-formed country.
“I’ve been really impressed with their matches in this group so far, and also their performances in the Nations League last season, which have put them on a real roll.”
The England squad relocated to the south coast after the weekend game at Wembley, where they’ve been using Southampton’s training facilities to fine tune their preparations.
And almost exactly one year on from their last game on the road in Leicester, Southgate is looking forward to taking his team into a different stadium.
“It’s great to have another game on the road,” he added.
“As much as we like to play our games at Wembley, it’s such a thrill to take our matches around the country as we have done at Leeds and Leicester over the last year or so.
“It gives our fans from around the country an opportunity to perhaps do less travelling and see the team in their local stadium.
“And the atmosphere is always incredible, so Southampton can play a part in helping us try to get the three points we need.”BUY THE PROGRAMME