The only way Kosovo can stop Raheem Sterling is by breaking his leg, their coach Bernard Challandes has joked.
England are in Pristina for the first time on Sunday for the final game of their European Qualifier campaign, with progression into the Euro 2020 finals as group winners already confirmed.
Sterling is expected to start for the visitors having been sidelined for the 7-0 thrashing of Montenegro on Thursday as punishment for his training ground row with Liverpool defender Joe Gomez.
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Challandes believes it is bad news for his side that Sterling will be back and looking to make a point on his return to the team.
For us it is not good news for sure, he said. It is double bad news because if Sterling plays he is one of the best in his position in the world and we saw in the first game the trouble with Sterling.
Secondly, if I am Sterling I think in this game I must show good behaviour. I think if Kosovo play against England and we know exactly the offensive potential, we have no individual answer – it is only collective work.
It is clear if we remember the first game in England, if Sterling has so much space it is impossible to stop him because what he did in that game, it was 460 metres with high intensity.
The most intense player for the Czech Republic was 200 metres, even that is a good score. Only as a team can we do and can we find a solution. Or we break the leg!
But that is not our style, we are too nice – we are a team who are very, very, very nice but it is not a problem if we play together.
Kosovo can no longer qualify directly after suffering a narrow defeat in the Czech Republic but will be in the play-offs and Challandes will want to build on their performance in a 5-3 loss to England at St Mary’s earlier in the year.
Southgate’s side have racked up 33 goals in qualifying – three more than the next most potent side Belgium, who have played one more game – with Challandes now believing England are the best team in Europe.
If you can remember when we began this European Qualifiers I have always spoken about new experiences and progress, about improving, he added.
This game is a wonderful game with these objectives. At least I can say it is for us a wonderful challenge to play against one of the best teams in the world and perhaps now the best team in Europe.
If you see this qualification round from England no one has scored so much, the incredible offensive potential of this team: winning 7-0, 6-0, 5-0, 5-0, 5-0. Incredible!
No other team (is like that), that means for us it is an incredible challenge and as a coach I can enjoy such a challenge but am also a little afraid.
We can laugh a little but it is the 1,001st game for England, it is our 29th – they are a little more experienced.
Analysis: Challandes no figure of fun
Sky Sports News’ Tom Driscoll was at the news conference in Pristina:
”You can’t help but like Bernard Challandes. He’s all dark eyes, raised eyebrows and flailing arms. He’s a walking, talking meme – a break from the normal, placid Manager
Here in Pristina, his booming voice reverberates around the room at random moments during a sentence. Pity the journalist who allows their concentration to drift when he’s talking! So, you pay attention to what he has to say.
But like his team, he’s not to be dismissed as a figure of fun. Kosovo won plaudits for the way they played against England in September – and Challandes’ astute management has been integral to their development.
Remember – they’ve only played 38 matches in their short history.
Remember too, despite disappointment against the Czechs last time out, they have a Euro 2020 play-off spot to look forward to in March.
How refreshing it would be to see Kosovo – and their manager – reach their first major tournament this summer.”