England coach Fabio Capello is keen to ensure maximum points from next month's Euro 2012 qualifiers against Bulgaria and Wales to ensure the final trip to Montenegro on October 10 does not turn into a must-win occasion.

England are currently level on points with Montenegro at the head of Group G. However, as they have two matches during the forthcoming international double-header, and their rivals only have one against Wales in Cardiff on Friday, the Three Lions could take a significant initiative.

"Bulgaria and Wales are really important games for us," said the England coach. "We play the last game against Montenegro and need to be top of the group before that one because it will be a really difficult game. The stadium, the pitch, the fans will be really strong, which is why we need to do well in our next matches."

Jermain Defoe bagged a hat-trick in England's 4-0 win over Bulgaria at Wembley last season, and Capello added: "In our last match against Bulgaria, we played a good game but I remember it well and they got some chances as well.

"They have a lot of quality and are good with free-kicks and shots from distance. In fact, although we scored four goals, we actually had more chances against Montenegro, when we didn't score. It was just that the keeper made the difference."

It was Bulgaria's failure to overcome Montenegro in Sofia that earmarked where the direct challenge to England's place at Euro 2012 would come from.

Since then, Germany legend Lothar Matthaus has taken the reins, presiding over just one loss in his five games in charge - in Belarus earlier this month.

With Manchester United's Dimitar Berbatov resisting calls to come out of retirement, Matthaus is relying on the return of Aston Villa midfielder Stiliyan Petrov to rouse a team for whom discipline remains a problem with eight members of their squad fined for breaking a curfew prior to the Belarus defeat.

Capello will hope to exploit any dissent with a side expected to contain Gareth Barry and Frank Lampard in central midfield, as Steven Gerrard and Jack Wilshere have both been ruled out through injury.

Of the Manchester United youngsters called up by Capello on Sunday, Chris Smalling seems most likely to start, at right-back, ahead of Micah Richards, given how impressed the Italian has been by the former Fulham man's performances since switching out of central defence.

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Topics:
Chris Smalling
Fulham
Dimitar Berbatov
Football
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Stiliyan Petrov
Gareth Barry
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Jermain Defoe
Micah Richards
Steven Gerrard
Aston Villa
Jack Wilshere