World Cup Qualifiers: No room for error as England seek spot
England will qualify for the 2014 World Cup finals if they beat Montenegro and Poland in their final two Group H qualifiers and manager Roy Hodgson knows there is no room for error as they seek to secure their place in Brazil.
Both matches are at Wembley and England go into them topping the group by one point from Montenegro, who are Friday's visitors, and Ukraine, and three clear of Poland, who provide next Tuesday's opposition.
Hodgson, appointed just before last year's European Championship, is confident England will complete the task and avoid the doomsday scenario of failing to reach the finals - something that last happened under Graham Taylor 20 years ago.
"My life at the moment is these two games," Hodgson told reporters this week. "As for the doomsday scenarios put before me, I won't have to confront them because I believe, and am confident, in that belief that the team will do it.
"Of course I am nervous, any coach worthy of the name is nervous when the whistle goes.
"But I believe we have the players to complete the task. I am certain as I can be that we will achieve our aim."
Image: Roy Hodgson of England looks on during a training session
Photographs: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Gerrard, Lampard and Wilshere expected to play
England are the only unbeaten team in the group, and will look to preserve that record against Montenegro without left-back Ashley Cole, who will miss the match with a rib injury.
The 32-year-old, who has played 105 times for his country, is likely to be replaced by Everton's Leighton Baines but has not yet been ruled out of Tuesday's match against Poland.
Baines will win his 20th cap if, as expected, he lines up alongside Everton team mate Phil Jagielka with the back four completed by Chelsea's Gary Cahill and Tottenham's Kyle Walker.
Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Jack Wilshere are expected to play in midfield with Liverpool's free-scoring Daniel Sturridge and the Manchester United pair of Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney up front.
Rooney, Sturridge and Welbeck all missed the sterile 0-0 draw with Ukraine in Kiev a month ago.
Joe Hart will keep his place in goal despite a recent loss of form.
Montenegro come to Wembley hampered by injuries to four players who are all likely to miss the match including captain Mirko Vucinic.
Goalkeeper Mladen Bozovic, centre-back Marko Basa and midfielder Miodrag Pekovic have all been ruled out while defender Miodrag Dzudovic is doubtful because he has a back injury as well as an injured hamstring.
Image: Roy Hodgson of England speaks with Gary Neville
Photographs: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Argentina won't take foot off throttle
Argentina will not hold back despite having already qualified for the World Cup finals or lost four top players including Lionel Messi to injury when they host Peru in a qualifier on Friday.
Coach Alejandro Sabella also will be without Gonzalo Higuain, Fernando Gago and Javier Mascherano, normal shoe-ins to his first choice team, for the match at the Monumental and their last qualifier away to Uruguay next Tuesday.
Argentina's goal is to win the South American group as a reaction to the difficulties they had to qualify under former coach Diego Maradona four years ago for the 2010 finals in South Africa, winger Angel Di Maria said on Tuesday.
"That time no-one gave us anything, we had to fight to the bitter end. In this series we're going to do the same and try to get the (remaining) six points to be champions of the qualifiers," said Di Maria, who with Messi, Higuain and Sergio Aguero is part of Argentina's potent attacking quartet.
Argentina have 29 points from 14 matches, three points more than Colombia, who need one point from Friday's match at home to Chile to secure their first ticket to the finals for 16 years.
Chile have 24 points and Ecuador (22) are in the other two automatic qualifying places with Uruguay, also on 22, in the berth for a playoff with Jordan.
Uruguay visit Quito for a key clash with the Ecuadoreans on Friday.
Image: Argentina's head coach Alejandro Sabella (centre) walks past his players during a training session
Photographs: Marcos Brindicci/Reuters
Mounting injuries won't stop Germany's path
Germany may be missing more than half a dozen key players through injuries, including their top strikers, but anything other than automatic World Cup qualification with a win over Ireland on Friday will be a disappointment, officials said.
Germany coach Joachim Loew will be without his starting strikers Mario Gomez and Miroslav Klose as well as defender Marcel Schmelzer, twins Sven and Lars Bender, Lukas Podolski and offensive midfielder Marco Reus among others.
"We always hope that in the autumn to have all players fully fit but there are times when players are stretched every three days with matches," team manager Oliver Bierhoff told a news conference in Duesseldorf.
Germany need two points from their last two games against Ireland in Cologne and away to Sweden four days later to top Group C and advance to next year's World Cup finals in Brazil.
Germany are on 22 points from eight games with Sweden in second place, five points off the pace.
Image: Germany's national soccer player Mats Hummels (right) tackles Mario Goetze during a training session
Photographs: Ina Fassbender/Reuters
'Hundred caps is not something you expect to happen'
Bierhoff also brushed off criticism that a lack of attackers could be a problem, with Max Kruse the only designated forward in Loew's squad.
"We are missing about nine players but I did not sense any panic among the coaches. I only saw the trust in the players that we know well.
"What is important is to fill the positions and we have alternatives like Thomas Mueller, who has shown this season how dangerous he is up front and Max (Kruse) is also as a forward."
For Bastian Schweinsteiger, who will reach 100 caps if he plays in both games, a win over Ireland would be the first step towards winning that elusive first international trophy with Germany since 1996.
"It is my aim to become the best team in the world," said the midfielder, who returns after missing the last few matches, through injury.
"Hundred caps is not something you expect to happen. I hope to play many more matches and enjoy success."
Image: Bastian Schweinsteiger of FC Bayern Munchen
Photographs: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images