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Southgate predicting tougher test for Three Lions against North Macedonia
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England manager Gareth Southgate is anticipating a tough challenge against North Macedonia
England manager Gareth Southgate is anticipating a tough challenge against North Macedonia

England boss Gareth Southgate believes Monday’s European Championship qualifier against North Macedonia will be a "step up" from the win over Malta.

Southgate’s men conclude their season with the fixture at Old Trafford, three days after beating Malta 4-0 away to make it three victories from three matches in Group C.

Southgate told a press conference on Sunday regarding North Macedonia: "They should have won the other night against Ukraine, really.

"We know the quality of some of the individual players, they have some players playing at big European clubs. As a team they function well. They knocked Italy out of the last World Cup, and they pushed Portugal close in those games.

"So they have got pedigree, they bring the game to you a bit more than perhaps we had the other night as well. So it isn’t just a case of rolling on from Friday, it’s a step up, it’s a step up in intensity and quality, and we have to be right in our game to be able to win the match."

Monday’s match marks England’s first game on home soil not to be staged at Wembley since they were thumped 4-0 by Hungary at Molineux a year ago, which prompted jeers from the crowd.

When asked about that, Southgate said: "It’s for us always to bring the crowd with us. The onus is on us to give the crowd something to be excited about and to play well.

"It’s a great crowd up here anyway. When we went to Leeds a few years ago that was an exceptional atmosphere, and I’m sure Manchester will be the same.

"The fact it’s a sell-out is exciting for us, it adds an edge to the game. But of course, also our opponent will be lifted by that. They will want to put on a good display. So we have to be ready for them.

"We want to play well, we want to entertain our supporters and we need to win."

Southgate said it was “possible” some of the Manchester City treble-winners in his squad would be in the starting line-up on Monday, and also spoke again about Trent Alexander-Arnold after the Liverpool man impressed in a midfield role against Malta.

Asked what he made of the reaction to that performance, Southgate said: "He played exceptionally well, so he deserves all the credit he’s getting — the rest is noise, so I don’t really get too distracted by that.

"It’s another option, and it’s an exciting one. We know the outstanding qualities he has. I thought he adapted really well to the role, it is different to what he’s been asked to do for his club to this point. But he was excited by that and he delivered, so great credit to him."


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