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Can England pick up their first points of the UEFA Nations League

Last updated: October 10, 2018 by Leon Marshal

Game details

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Kick-off: Friday, 19:45
Venue: Stadion HNK Rijeka
Coverage: Sky Sports
Home Form: WWLDL
Away Form: WLLLW
Last Meeting: England 1 – 2 Croatia
Competition: UEFA Nations League

Friday night’s UEFA Nations League clash between England and Croatia is a vital one for both teams. The loser – if there is one – will have lost their opening two games and will look likely to be relegated from league 1. The game will be played behind closed doors in the Stadion HNK Rijeka, as Croatia serve the punishment for a fan marking a Swastika on the pitch in 2016.

England fans have of course been advised not to travel, but some will be around the ground, having already bought plane tickets. But the game is a vital one, and could be action packed. Croatia emphatically lost their opening Nations League match 6-0 to Spain. Many senior players were missing and there may have been a World Cup hangover, rather than a post-tournament high, but the team will have to quickly improve. Croatia are winless in their last two matches since that World Cup final. There’s no doubt they are a solid team, but it does seem – like England – that they took advantage of favourable fixtures and conditions to overachieve at this summer’s World Cup. But, Croatia were ultimately worthy winners against England in the semi-final, so surely they’ll fancy their chances of repeating that famous victory.

For England too, playing in an empty stadium, whether every word or noise emitted from the pitch is clearly audible, is hardly ideal. Perhaps the chance of revenge will be a motivating factor here. Either way, that World Cup loss will surely play on the players’ minds in some way. There are plenty of new faces though. Ross Barkley has returned to the squad for the first time since early 2017. Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho has earned a call up, along with Ben Chilwell. England got their first win since the quarter-finals of the World Cup in their recent friendly with Switzerland to end a mini-run of poor results.

Southgate has spoken publicly of his management of Harry Kane. The striker has looked far from his best in the EPL this season, and in truth, signs of fatigue were beginning to show at the backend of the World Cup. Thanks to the result of the World Cup, this game has an extra edge to it. But even as a standalone fixture, it’s importance cannot be overstated. Losing this match would mean England would have lost their opening two fixtures. That would place them well behind leaders Spain, and without a realistic chance of winning the group.


Team News

Inter Milan’s Sime Vrsaljko and Marcelo Brozovic have both withdrawn from the squad.

Three of Croatia’s starting 11 have been nominated for the Ballon d’Or; Luka Modrić, Ivan Rakitić, and Mario Mandžukić.

Ben Chilwell has replaced the injured Luke Shaw and joined up with the camp.

Joe Gomez has earned a call up after a string of impressive performances in central defence for Liverpool this season.


Expected Line-Ups:

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Croatia (4-3-3): Kalinic, Vida, Lovren, Pivaric, Rakitic, Modric, Perisic, Kovacic, Mandzukic
Subs: Subasic, Barisic, Corluka, Pasalic, Badelj, Piaca, Kalinic, Rebic
Injured:
Doubtful:
Not available:
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England (3-2-3-1): Pickford, Gomez, Trippier, Walker, Stones, Maguire, Rose, Henderson, Barkley, Winks, Sterling, Rashford, Kane
Subs: Butland, Chilwell, Sancho, Dunk, Welbeck, Maddison, Dier, Chalobah
Injured: Shaw, Alli
Doubtful:
Not available:

Head to Head

Last 5 meetings between the two sides
Date Competition Game Result First Goal-scorer
11/07/2018 FIFA World Cup Croatia 2 – 1 England Trippier 5′
09/09/2009 FIFA World Cup England 5 – 1 Croatia Lampard 8′
10/09/2008 FIFA World Cup Croatia 1 – 4 England Walcott 26′
21/11/2007 UEFA European Championship England 2 – 3 Croatia Kranjcar 8′
11/10/2006 UEFA European Championship Croatia 2 – 0 England Eduardo 61′

Conclusion & Betting Tips

Both these teams are talented in attack, but England have a new found defensive stability, as evidenced at the summer’s World Cup. The bookies don’t see many goals, so there’s not much value in going with an under goals bet.

The Three Lions are ever improving and with the game being played behind closed doors Croatia have lost their home support. We fancy England to get a result, but may place safe with a draw no bet, which is still a decent price. You can get this bet at Betway.