The unbeaten Group H rivals meet in Podgorica with the Montenegrins holding a two-point advantage at the top of the standings. Victory would see England usurp Branko Brnovic's men, while defeat would put automatic qualification for the 2014 finals in Brazil in serious doubt.
Former Fulham and West Bromwich Albion manager Hodgson has enjoyed a relatively easy ride by supporters and the media since his last-minute appointment before last summer's European Championship.
Expectations have lowered following England's humbling defeat to Germany at the 2010 World Cup. But McClaren, who was at the helm when the Three Lions failed to qualify for Euro 2008, says Hodgson's honeymoon period will be over should his side lose to Montenegro.
"I have noticed a significant shift in the attitude of the media and even when I talk to supporters you can see that the expectations of the England football team are more realistic now. People have looked at the past and are realising that we can't be expected to beat everybody or to go to tournaments and win them," he told Yahoo!
"Roy, who has international experience, has come in and steadied the ship and he can deal with the expectations of the fans and the media. You get a honeymoon period but the Montenegro game is a big game, it's a defining game for Roy and the team. It is a hurdle to get over in terms of temperament and character."
England have drawn each of their previous two encounters with Montenegro. A 2-2 draw in Podgorica in the final qualifying match for Euro 2012 was enough for the Three Lions to pick up the point they needed to win the group and progress to the Poland and Ukraine showpiece.
But they had to hold on with 10 men for more than 17 minutes after Wayne Rooney's petulant kick out at Miodrag Dzudovic, and McClaren believes the key to victory on Tuesday will be England's players keeping their cool in a hostile environment.
"In many ways the game is not really about tactics, it's about controlling the emotion on both sides," he said. "When you play away the atmosphere is electric and England will have to deal with the noise generated by the home fans. They are very proud people and that passion feeds into the team.
"[England] can win the game, without a shadow of doubt and they're capable of doing that. It's a great test of their mentality, combating the outside elements like the atmosphere, fans and the on-field intimidation from playing these big European teams.
"Rooney's sending off has to serve as a lesson to the players. Every England player must be aware that to reach their potential, they have to play with emotional control, discipline and make sure England do not have to play a game with 10 men."
For more insight from Steve McClaren and other leading managers, plus exclusive Premier League highlights, visitwww.yahoo.co.uk/sport
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