MX23RW : Monday, February 18 23:28:45

New faces and familiar foes – Talking points ahead of England’s trip to Croatia

The Three Lions travel to Rijeka to play the World Cup finalists.

England take on Croatia in the Nations League in Rijeka on Friday night.

The pair met less than 100 days ago in a World Cup semi-final clash which saw English hearts broken in extra-time.

Here, Press Association Sport looks at the major talking points ahead of the match.

As one door closes…

There will be no supporters at Croatia's Nations League game against England on Friday.
There will be no supporters at Croatia’s Nations League game against England on Friday. (Tim Goode/PA)

Friday’s game at Stadion HNK Rijeka will be played behind-closed-doors as part of a UEFA sanction that has been hanging over Croatia since 2015. They were ordered to play two UEFA matches in front of an empty stadium after a swastika was marked on the pitch ahead of a Euro 2016 qualifier. England manager Gareth Southgate showed his players a video of Barcelona’s game against Las Palmas from last year, which was also played in front of no fans, to prepare them for a unique test, which goalkeeper Jordan Pickford believes plays into the hands of the visitors.

Ninety three days of hurt

Gareth Southgate consoles Ashley Young after World Cup semi-final defeat.
Gareth Southgate consoles Ashley Young after World Cup semi-final defeat. (Adam Davy/PA)

Three months on from the biggest game England had played in 28 years, the Three Lions get a shot at some modicum of revenge. In Russia, Kieran Trippier’s early free-kick put Southgate’s side ahead and on course for the World Cup final, only for Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic to score the goals which saw Croatia progress at England’s expense. It brought an end to a surprisingly successful summer for England, with the players wanting to exact a little retribution in Rijeka.

Generation game

Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho will be pushing to make his senior England debut.
Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho will be pushing to make his senior England debut. (Martin Rickett/PA)

Mason Mount, Jadon Sancho and James Maddison all spoke to the media earlier in the week as they enjoyed their first taste of a senior England call-up. The trio will be hoping for some level involvement against Croatia – or Monday’s Nations League meeting with Spain in Seville – rather than just being in and around the squad for the first time. All three have impressed this season – Mount on loan at Derby from Chelsea, Sancho in the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund and Maddison at Leicester – and will be desperate for a chance to impress. Leicester’s Ben Chilwell is likely to add to his first cap in last month’s friendly win over Switzerland following the withdrawals of fellow left-backs Luke Shaw and Danny Rose.

Happy two years

Dele Alli scored as England beat Malta in Gareth Southgate's first game in charge of the Three Lions.
Dele Alli scored as England beat Malta in Gareth Southgate’s first game in charge of the Three Lions. (Mike Egerton/PA)

Joe Hart, Gary Cahill, Theo Walcott, Wayne Rooney, Chris Smalling, Fraser Forster and Michail Antonio – seven players who were all involved in Southgate’s first match in charge of England on 8 October 2016 as Malta were dispatched 2-0 at Wembley. That list shows two years is a long time in football, but Southgate can toast his anniversary in Croatia knowing he is the most popular England boss for a generation and with a newly-signed contract to boot.

Hit for six

Croatia manager Zlatko Dalic saw his side thrashed by Spain in their previous Nations League outing.
Croatia manager Zlatko Dalic saw his side thrashed by Spain in their previous Nations League outing. (Tim Goode/PA)

Croatia may have beaten England in the World Cup, but Zlatko Dalic has not seen his side win since. A 4-2 defeat to France in the final was followed by a 1-1 friendly draw against Portugal in Faro. But it was their opening Nations League match which will be of most cause for concern as Croatia were thumped 6-0 by Spain. They will be itching to put that right, with victory over England once again in their sights.

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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Manchester CityMan City27212474205465
2Liverpool26205159154465
3Tottenham HotspurSpurs26200654252960
4Manchester UnitedMan Utd26156552351751
5Arsenal26155653371650
6Chelsea26155645291650
7Wolverhampton WanderersWolves2611693433139
8Watford2610793434037
9Everton2796123639-333
10West Ham UnitedWest Ham2696113239-733
11Bournemouth26103133747-1033
12Leicester CityLeicester2695123134-332
13Crystal Palace2676132734-727
14Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton2676132839-1127
15Burnley2676132947-1827
16Newcastle UnitedNewcastle2667132234-1225
17Cardiff CityCardiff2674152447-2325
18Southampton2659122844-1624
19Fulham2645172558-3317
20Huddersfield TownHuddersfield2625191448-3411

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