England coach Gareth Southgate expects Poland will have a great incentive for Wednesday’s World Cup qualifying match at Wembley in the absence of captain and main scorer Robert Lewandowski.
The Bayern Munich striker suffered a knee injury in Sunday’s 3-0 win over Andorra – a match in which he scored two goals – and his club confirmed on Tuesday that he will miss next month.
Lewandowski has scored 66 goals in 118 appearances for Poland, including nine in his last nine matches in all competitions.
But Southgate rejected the notion that England would be strengthened by the striker’s prolific absence from the Group A clash between the first and second seeders.
“From our point of view, you’ll have players who are hungry to fill this opportunity,” Southgate told a pre-match press conference on Tuesday.
“They are a good team with some good players. They will all fight for the cause and they are a good football team. They have a lot of motivation.
“We have to keep improving. We showed good form and we have to keep moving forward.
“I understand the question, but I think Poland has excellent players. We would be naive to think that they are less dangerous.
If we think about taking our feet off the gas, we will be hurt. Of course, the fans want to see the names of the stars, but the team is not about a single player. “
England are looking to claim their three wins from three games in March after their 5-0 win over San Marino with their 2-0 win in Albania on Sunday.
Mason Mount was among the top scorers in Tirana and saw an impressive campaign at club level with Chelsea.
He has played the most minutes for any Chelsea player (2,231) this season, while his 69 made chances are 41 more than any other player.
The 168 assists Mount played in the opponent’s area is also by far the most among Chelsea’s players, a form that has taken him into the international arena.
There have been doubts about the midfielder’s fitness after he missed a portion of training on Tuesday, but Southgate expects one of his main men to be available to visit Poland.
“He did not heat up with the team but did the rest of the session with his team-mates,” Southgate said. “It must be okay. They are all available to our knowledge.”
“We have managed the team through matches and training sessions. We have been very careful. We have to balance this freshness.
“We were very happy with the performance that day. Across Europe, most countries have taken a similar turn.”
Poland may be without its main goalscorer in the match, but England has fitness as it pays Harry Kane to lead their streak.
The future of the Tottenham striker has been the subject of much speculation during the international break, but Southgate assured his captain would not be distracted by the rumors.
“He’s very focused. I spoke to him and he’s very positive about the club,” Southgate said.
“He was talking about being a few points away from the Champions League, in the English League Cup final. I have no worries about Harry Kane. He’s a great pro.”
“Harry is very excited. All the players want to win. He has a chance with his club to do that.”
Kane scored a goal six days of the week for the England national team, but he never made it through on Wednesday, failing in three different matches that day so far.
Only Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney scored in the seven days of the week with the Three Lions.