Updated: Friday, 28th February 2020 @ 8:34am

Kosovo v England preview: Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling returns to the fold

Kosovo v England preview: Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling returns to the fold

| By Jacob Bentley-York

England sealed their place at next summer’s European Championship with a game to spare after they thrashed Montenegro 7-0 on Thursday night to confirm themselves as group winners. 

Knowing only a point was needed from their final two group games, Harry Kane’s hat-trick helped them mark the national team’s 1,000 international fixture as they wrapped up qualification.

As a result, focus now switches to preparation for the summer with England set to play at least three games on home soil with next year’s edition of the quadrennial competition taking place across 12 different countries.

Despite this, Southgate set about assuring supporters that the team would not be taking their trip to the Balkan nation lightly with top seeding for the tournament still very much up on the agenda.

He said: “We will make some changes, for sure, but the seeding in the group could be critical and we know it’s a big night for the Kosovans.”

“It’s a shame for them that they’re now out of this part of the qualification, although they’ve still got the play-offs in which I think they’ll be a huge threat.”

The recently established FIFA nation was impressive in the reverse fixture at Southampton two months ago after the two teams played out a thrilling 5-3 encounter.

For all England’s stunning forward play that night, their defensive fragilities were undone by a fluid and frenetic Kosovan outfit who showed just how far they have come since their validation three years ago.

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The England manager also had his say on the return of forward Raheem Sterling after his omission from Thursday’s squad following his much publicised training bust up with Liverpool’s Joe Gomez. 

Candidly speaking on the player’s natural frustration after being left out of the squad, Southgate said: “I wouldn’t imagine that he’s hugely enthusiastic, but I can understand that and in the end he’s with the group.

“He’s a massive part of what we do - the thing is finished.”

Another expected change for the game will see the return of Jordan Henderson after he was rested on Thursday night. 

Kosovo v England is live on ITV on Sunday at 5pm.