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5 talking points ahead of England’s Euro 2020 qualifier against Kosovo

The Three Lions travel to Pristina for the first time.

Raheem Sterling, Gareth Southgate, Harry Kane (Mike Egerton/PA)
Raheem Sterling, Gareth Southgate, Harry Kane (Mike Egerton/PA)

By PA Sport Staff

England face Kosovo on Sunday in their final Euro 2020 qualifier and with progression into next summer’s finals already secured.

The Three Lions travel to Pristina for the first time looking to end the campaign on a high and win their final competitive fixture before the tournament begins in June.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at the main talking points ahead of the match at the Stadiumi Fadil Vokrri.

What sort of reception for Raheem?

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England’s Raheem Sterling, centre, is back in the frame for Gareth Southgate (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Raheem Sterling was sidelined for the 7-0 win over Montenegro as punishment for a training ground fall-out with Liverpool defender Joe Gomez.

The spat was an overspill from Liverpool’s 3-1 victory over Premier League title rivals Manchester City and led to Gomez being jeered by a number of England fans when he came off the bench on Thursday.

But with Gomez returning home injured and Sterling likely to return to the side, it remains to be seen if he will also be a target for the boo-boys when he takes to the field.

England in for a warm welcome

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Local workers have put up England flags in Pristina, Kosovo (Steven Paston/PA)

Given the recent history between England and Kosovo, the hosts are rolling out the red carpet for Gareth Southgate and his players.

It is a far cry from recent trips which have seen issues between supporters and racist abuse aimed at England’s black players in both Montenegro and Bulgaria.

Several St George’s flags adorn parts of the city, with welcomes posted at the airport and locals wearing t-shirts to show their support of the travelling England contingent.

Southgate to shuffle his pack?

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Gareth Southgate could decide to hand Fikayo Tomori his England debut (Mike Egerton/PA)

With qualification and top-spot in Group A secured, Southgate may take the chance to look at some players on the periphery of his side.

The likes of Tammy Abraham, James Maddison and Tyrone Mings will be hoping for more international experience while Chelsea defender Fikayo Tomori is the only outfield member of the current squad waiting to make his debut.

While some alterations may take place, Southgate will also be keen to name a team close to that which he believes will resemble the starting XI he will select for the opening game at Euro 2020.

Kane at it again

If captain Harry Kane starts for England he will be aiming to end the qualification campaign having scored in all eight Group A games.

He currently sits top of the scoring charts alongside Israel’s Eran Zahavi on 11 goals and has became the first England player to score back-to-back hat-tricks in the wins over Bulgaria and Montenegro.

Kane is also the highest-scoring England captain of all time and sits sixth on the complete list of the country’s most potent marksmen with his eyes now trained on Michael Owen, who has nine more than the 31 goals Kane has to date.

What could have been for Kosovo

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Kosovo manager Bernard Challandes does not want his players to treat the game against England like a gala match (Mark Kerton/PA)

A visit from England remains the biggest fixture in Kosovo’s burgeoning international history but it could have had even more riding on it.

Defeat in the Czech Republic on Thursday night means Kosovo can no longer defy the odds and qualify for their first-ever tournament finals.

They will still play in the play-off rounds in March but coach Bernard Challandes admits the game against England will now have a completely different feel and has warned his players not to treat the occasion like a “gala match”.

PA

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