England vs BulgariaEuro 2020, KO: 17:00 Sep 7, 2019, Wembley
ALMOST six months have passed since England were last in Euro 2020 qualifying action, however the Three Lions will resume their quest to reach next Summers showpiece when they welcome Bulgaria to Wembley on Saturday evening.
Having contested the inaugural Nations League finals back in June Gareth Southgate's side have played fewer games than their Group A opponents, yet England's imperious form in the section to date still sees them sitting top of the pile.
Both the Czech Republic and Montenegro shipped five goals against Southgate's young Lions who will now have their eyes set on tearing basement boys Bulgaria apart.
The Bulgarians have only managed to bag two points from four outings thus far – courtesy of 1-1 draws with Montenegro and Kosovo respectively – and the bookmakers don't envisage a repeat on Saturday with a share of the spoils deemed improbable at 12/1 (Bet 365)
What's more, the Eastern European outfit have never beaten England and that is reflected by the towering 33/1 (UniBet) on offer for Bulgaria to triumph in London.
Such lofty odds are hardly surprising for a nation who have failed to appear at a major tournament since 2004 and for a team who are without a win in their last seven matches – almost a year has passed since their last success.
After taking the reigns in May of this year, Krasimir Balakov, one of Bulgaria's all-time greats, has oversaw four of those failures, however just 10 of his 24-man squad have 10 caps or more.
Yet, despite the limited quality at Balakov's disposal, Bulgaria have scored in all four of their Group A encounters and have notably netted in 10 of their last 11 internationals – a repeat at Wembley pays 19/10 (Sportingbet)
However, the Bulgarians were turned over at home last time out by a Kosovo side ranked 60 places below them in the Fifa World Rankings and that setback would suggest that a long night could lie ahead in the Lion's den
After netting in last weekends north-London derby another Kane goal at Wembley is feasible, however batter value could lie with the red-hot Raheem Sterling.
Sterling's 25 goals in 51 appearances last season proved to be instrumental in helping Manchester City pick up a domestic clean-sweep of trophies and his scintillating form is showing no signs of stopping after scoring five goals in four matches during the opening month of the new Premier League season.
Furthermore, Sterling has scored four of his countries 10 Group A goals – including a hat-trick at Wembley in a 5-0 rout against the Czech Republic.
Sterling is 22/1 (Ladbrokes) to repeat the feat by taking the match ball home against Bulgaria and he is 15/4 (Betway) to score first, however the I'm more attracted to the Evens (BetVictor) on offer for Sterling to strike anytime.
Winless Bulgaria will have their work cut out trying to contain Sterling and Co and right-back Strahil Popov is expected to be tasked with trying to shackle the sparkling Sterling and in doing so the Bulgarian defender is an eye-catching 11/2 (Bet 365) to pick up his second card of the campaign.
Expect Balakov and Bulgaria to try and tame the Lions by setting up to frustrate and restrict Southgate's team with a view to landing a sucker-punch on the counter-attack.
However, England will more than likely breakthrough eventually – their superior quality is too good not to – but the odds on an England win at 1/10 (UniBet) are not enticing.
Furthermore, England have won eight of their last 10 home qualifiers without conceding and a repeat on Saturday is expected at 8/15 (BetVictor)
Southgate should steer his fearless young lions to another authoritative home win this weekend in what is the type of assignment that England are particularly efficient in dealing with.
Yet, finding value form this fixture will prove to be problematic for punters, so rather than put all my eggs in one basket with Raheem Sterling, another option to contemplate in trying to source value may be to combine an England win, over 2.5 goals and Harry Kane to score which appeals at 4/5 (Bet 365)
This Euro 2020 match between England and Bulgaria will be played on Sep 7, 2019 and kick off at 17:00