Croata vs England preview
England take on Croatia in the UEFA Nations League on Friday evening in a swift reunion after their World Cup semi-final encounter in the summer.
Croatia emerged victorious on that occasion. Now both sides are looking for their first win in the new competition having both lost their opening games against Group 4 rivals Spain.
This will be a so-called ghost game. The match will be played behind closed doors at a virtually empty Stadion Rujevica, in Rijeka. This is due to sanctions imposed by UEFA after a swastika was marked on their pitch before a game in 2015.
It will be the first time England have played a senior international behind closed doors.
Croatia team news
Coach Zlatko Dalic is expected to field a new-look side against England. Of the squad that reached the World Cup final, right-back Sime Vrasljko, Ivan Strinic, Marcelo Brozovic and goalkeeper Lovre Kalinic are all out injured, while Mario Mandzukic and Danijel Subasic have retired from international football.
Forwards Duje Cope and Rangers defender Borna Barisic are also sidelined through injury.
Former Leicester City forward Andrej Kramaric could lead the line because Ivan Santini is carrying a knock.
Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren and Chelsea midfielder Matteo Kovacic are both in line to start.
England team news
Tottenham Hotspur left-back Danny Rose and Southampton goalkeeper Alex McCarthy have both withdrawn from the England squad with minor injuries. Both players reported for duty carrying the injuries and have now returned to their clubs before England fly to Croatia.
Rose’s withdrawal increases the likelihood of Leicester City’s Ben Chilwell making his full debut at left-back. The 21-year-old was a late call-up to replace Manchester United’s Luke Shaw, who also withdrew through injury. He won his first cap when he came on as a substitute for Rose during September’s friendly win over Switzerland.
Chilwell’s Leicester club-mate James Maddison, Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho and Chelsea’s Mason Mount (who is on loan at Derby County) are the uncapped players in Gareth Southgate’s squad. Uncapped Fulham keeper Marcus Bettinelli and Watford midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah are also in line for debuts.
Chelsea midfielder Ross Barkley is in an England squad for the first time since May 2016.
Possible Starting XIs
Croatia: Livakovic, Jedvaj, Locren, Vida, Pivaric, Rakitic, Modric, Kovacic, Rebic, Perisic, Kramaric
England: Pickford, Trippier, Gomez, Stones, Maguire, Chilwell, Henderson, Barkley, Sterling, Rashford, Kane
The bookies have hosts and World Cup finalists Croatia as narrow favourites going into this game. You can get odds of 8/5 on a home win, with England at 15/8 and the draw at 21/10.
It remains to be seen what effect the lack of spectators will have on this game. You can get generous odds of 13/2 on their being under 0.5 goals if you fancy this one to to be a bit of a non-event and peter out into a goalless draw.
Paddy Power is offering a money-back guarantee on the game or you could find extra value by using a welcome bonus equivalent to these from OLBG.com.