ENGLAND are searching for three wins from three Euro 2016 qualifiers when making the trip to Tallinn to face Estonia on Sunday evening (KO 17:00).
Roy Hodgson’s side have a 100% record in Group E so far after easing to a comfortable 5-0 win over minnows San Marino at Wembley on Thursday, which followed last month’s 2-0 victory against likely challengers Switzerland in Basel last month.
The Three Lions will be expected to see off another lowly nation in Estonia, who are ranked 63 places below them in Fifa’s world standings in 81st.
The two sides have met twice before with England recording 3-0 wins both home and away during their unsuccessful Euro 2008 qualifying campaign under Steve McClaren.
Highlighting how times have changed since, the scorers in the Baltic region in June 2007 were Joe Cole, Shaun Wright-Phillips and the now-retired Michael Owen.
The clash at the A.Le Coq Arena, which only holds 9,600 fans, is hardly a headline-grabbing one but offers England the chance to further stamp their superiority in what is perceived as a favourable group.
It could, nevertheless, present a stiff challenge for Hodgson’s charges with Estonia having lost just two of their last 10 home games, winning four and drawing four.
Although Magnus Pehrsson’s side have kept just six clean sheets in their 20 previous internationals, they have conceded more than two goals in one match during that period and are reputably built around solid defensive foundations.
Estonia, who missed out on a place at Euro 2012 after a play-off defeat to the Republic of Ireland, have begun the road to France inconsistently.
After impressively beating Slovenia 1-0 in their opening match, they stumbled to defeat by the same scoreline against Lithuania in midweek.
But Hodgson, who is likely to field a similarly strong XI to the one that breezed past San Marino, has warned his players of being lulled into a false sense of security.
The England coach told his pre-match press conference that Estonia should “provide a step up in class” and likened their hard-working approach to that of the Scandinavian nations that the Three Lions have faced in recent times.
The importance of captain Wayne Rooney was stressed, with the Manchester United forward, who turns 29 next week, set for his 99th cap and is still trailing Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time scoring record of 49 goals by six.
Despite Estonia having lost just one of their last nine home games, England’s last competitive defeat on the road came in Ukraine five years ago, a 1-0 reverse in October 2009 in what was former boss Fabio Capello’s first competitive defeat in charge.
My Match Prediction: Estonia 0-3 England
The Baltic team will be a different test for the Three Lions but one they should overcome without any difficulty. Biding their time with patience and sticking to their attacking principles will be the order of the day for Hodgson’s men. Estonia’s rearguard action will make life harder than San Marino did although, with all of their offensive talent and ability, England will be far too strong and another convincing victory is expected.
England could name the same or a similar side from the 5-0 thrashing of San Marino having come through with a clean bill of health.
Hodgson may opt to give starts to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana after their eye-catching cameos from the bench on Thursday night.
Leighton Baines could oust Kieran Gibbs in the left-back position while Nathaniel Clyne will hope to make his senior international debut but Calum Chambers is expected to remain at right-back.
Aston Villa’s Fabian Delph, who missed the San Marino qualifier after picking up a knock in training, may be included ahead of James Milner in midfield but wholesale alterations are unlikely.
Estonia will be without experienced defender Ken Kallaste after he was sent off against Lithuania but can call upon three-time Estonian footballer of the year Konstantin Vassiliev and influential captain Ragnar Klavan, the Augsburg centre-back who will appear for his country for the 99th time.
Henrik Ojamaa, the only British-based player in the squad, currently plays his football for Motherwell in the Scottish Premiership but the forward is on loan from Polish outfit Legia Warsaw.
Estonia: Pareiko (GK), Aksalu (GK), Meerits (GK), Rahn, Teniste, Pikk, Reintam, Sisov, Podholjuzin, Klavan ©, Mosnikov, Luts, Liivak, Puri, Luigend, Vassiliev, Zenjov, Antonov, Subbotin, Vunk, Anier, Ojamaa, Kink, Prosa, Rattel.
England: Forster (GK), Foster (GK), Hart (GK), Clyne, Jagielka, Cahill, Chambers, Baines, Gibbs, Delph, Henderson, Lallana, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Shelvey, Sterling, Townsend, Wilshere, Lambert, Rooney (C), Welbeck.
Referee: Marijo Strahonja (Croatia)
Assistant referees: Sinisa Premuzaj and Igor Krmar
Additional assistants: Ante Vucemilovic and Domagoj Vuckov
Fourth official: Ivica Modric