LONDON, Oct 12 (Reuters) England's roller-coaster Euro 2008 qualifying campaign will effectively end on a high if they beat Estonia and Russia in the coming week.
If England take a maximum of six points from their matches against Estonia at Wembley Stadium on Saturday and Russia at the Luzhniki Olympic Stadium in Moscow next Wednesday, then, despite all the media's portents of doom of a month ago, they will have secured their place in next year's finals in Austria and Switzerland with a match to spare.
Even a win over Estonia and a draw with Russia may be enough depending on how other results in Group E pan out.
With three matches to play, Croatia top the standings with 23 points, England have 20, Russia 18 and Israel 17. Macedonia (8 points), Estonia (4) and Andorra (0) are out of contention.
England, who dropped points earlier in the competition with draws against Macedonia and Israel and a defeat to Croatia, have won their last four qualifiers by 3-0 scorelines and could easily repeat or better that against Estonia.
Estonia, making their first visit to Wembley, have picked up only four points from their 10 matches and are unlikely to add to that total.
After enduring some histrionic tabloid media frenzy over his position and England's chances of qualifying before last month's victories, England coach Steve McClaren and his squad were buoyed by their impressive back-to-back wins over Israel and Russia and the coach now has some intriguing decisions to make.
KEY DECISION Skipper John Terry has been ruled out with a knee injury and striker Emile Heskey is sidelined with a broken metatarsal, but McClaren has Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney back from injury.
His key decisions will be whether to restore Lampard into midfield at the expense of Gareth Barry or whether Rooney starts up front with Michael Owen, looking to add to his 40-goal England haul in his chase for Bobby Charlton's record of 49.
He has already said that goalkeeper Paul Robinson, enduring a poor run of error-prone form, will start. There could be starting places for Sol Campbell and David Bentley because of injuries to Terry and Shaun Wright-Phillips respectively.
Estonia will be missing main strikers Andres Oper (hamstring) and Vladimir Voskoboinikov (thigh).
Danish coach Viggo Jensen also has worries over his goalkeepers with first choice Mart Poom, who has played for five clubs in England including his current one Watford, is a doubt with a back injury.
Experienced defender Raio Piiroja was also injured in training on Tuesday and is doubtful, as is reserve goalkeeper Pavel Londak.
Possible teams: England: Paul Robinson; Micah Richards, Sol Campbell, Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Cole; Gareth Barry or Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Joe Cole, David Bentley; Wayne Rooney or Peter Crouch, Michael Owen Estonia: Mihkel Aksalu; Enar Jaager, Andrei Stepanov, Raio Piiroja, Dmitri Kruglov, Taavi Rahn, Aleksandr Dmitrijev, Ragnar Klavan, Martin Reim, Joel Lindpere, Kaimar Saag Referee: to be announced REUTERS BJR RAI1016