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Preview: Czech Republic vs. Albania - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Tuesday's International Friendly clash between Czech Republic and Albania, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Concluding their preparations for the upcoming Euro 2020 finals, the Czech Republic host Albania on Tuesday evening, at Prague's Generali Arena.

Following a heavy defeat in their first post-season run-out, the Czechs will aim for a sharper performance back on home soil, while their visitors want to build momentum before returning to the World Cup qualifying trail in September.


Match preview

Czech Republic manager Jaroslav Silhavy pictured on March 24, 2021© Reuters

Having barely put up a fight against a slick Italy side in their opening pre-Euros friendly last week, now the Czech Republic set their sights on a confidence-building win over more modest opponents.

A chastening 4-0 defeat in Bologna - where the Czechs had barely a third of possession - was hardly the ideal manner in which to kick off the summer's action, just over a week before beginning their European Championship campaign against Scotland at Hampden Park.

In fact, their preparations have already been disrupted by their Scottish hosts' current COVID-19 regulations, as Jaroslav Silhavy's squad were due to train in Edinburgh throughout the summer, but are instead basing themselves at home - travelling to and from the UK for each of their group stage fixtures.

They come into their final warm-up game this week, having not only been battered by the Azzurri, but also endured a mixed start to World Cup qualifying during the last international period in March.

Though their summary dismissal of Estonia was followed by a gritty home draw with Group E favourites Belgium, the Euro 96 finalists' most recent competitive outing resulted in a disappointing defeat to Wales - when star striker Patrik Schick saw red early in the second half.

Now gearing up for a seventh successive continental finals, Silhavy's men will have a tall task in progressing from Group D, where they are set to meet England and Scotland - both of whom will enjoy home advantage - plus World Cup runners-up Croatia.

Their previous revival - the Czechs defeated England in Euro qualifying before topping their Nations League group - was built upon the back of current national champions Slavia Prague's own recent resurgence.

Former Slavia pair Vladimir Coufal and Tomas Soucek - now starring in the Premier League with West Ham United - plus Hammers transfer target Alex Kral (currently at Spartak Moscow) are integral parts of the squad, while head coach Silhavy is a former defender and manager of the Cervenobili. Certainly, the latter will hope that his fellow Slavia alumni can help earn a morale-boosting win on Tuesday, with far tougher tests lying in wait.

Albania coach Edoardo Reja pictured on March 28, 2021© Reuters

Though they qualified for Euro 2016 - being eliminated in the group stages - Albania will not be present at this summer's championships, having finished fourth in qualifying Group H - losing five of their 10 fixtures in a section also containing World Champions France and fast-improving Turkey.

The Eagles have, though, since made a positive start to the Qatar 2022 qualification process, picking up six points from their first three matches to sit third in Group I, behind England and Hungary.

Following their goalless draw with Wales on Saturday, Edoardo Reja's team have, in fact, won five of their last seven outings in all competitions, while losing just one of their last eight - emerging top of their Nations League group in the autumn.

Former Napoli and Lazio coach Reja - at 75 years old, an elder statesman of the game - was unfortunately toppled to the turf in Cardiff, as Rhys Norrington-Davies shoved Eagles striker Rey Manaj, sending him clattering into his unsuspecting manager. Thankfully, Reja has since recovered, so will be present to plot his adopted nation's latest attempt at turning over another higher-ranked side this week.

Czech Republic International Friendlies form:
  • W
  • L
  • L

Czech Republic form (all competitions):
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • L
  • L

Albania International Friendlies form:
  • W
  • D

Albania form (all competitions):
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • L
  • W
  • D



Team News

Czech Republic's Lukas Provod celebrates scoring their first goal with teammates on March 27, 2021© Reuters

The hosts are set to field Bayer Leverkusen striker Patrik Schick up front, after Michael Krmencik drew a blank in Italy. The versatile left-footer was the Czechs' top scorer in qualifying but has a point to prove after his costly red card in their last World Cup qualifying tie.

Having started on the bench at Stadio Renato Dall'Ara, Tomas Soucek is likely to join captain Vladimir Darida in central midfield, with the latter preparing for a third consecutive European Championship finals appearance later this month. In goal, Sevilla's Tomas Vaclik is in contention to replace Jiri Pavlenka.

Slavia Prague pair Ondrej Kudela and Lukas Provod - who netted in the draw against Belgium - represent the major absences for Jaroslav Silhavy's side, as Provod misses out with a knee injury and centre-back Kudela is banned, as he serves a 10-match suspension for racial abuse of an opponent.

Albania, meanwhile, have added a number of inexperienced faces to an ageing group this summer; including three uncapped goalkeepers in their squad - with Gentian Selmani making his debut versus Wales and favourite to start again in Prague.

The visitors will most probably retain their three-man central defence on Tuesday, with Serie A trio Berat Djimsiti, Ardian Ismajli and Marash Kumbulla set start once more, as coach Edy Reja prefers stability and a cautious approach.

Leading goalscorer among active Albania players, Sokol Cikalleshi is also likely to feature - after being benched on Saturday - taking the place of Bekim Balaj alongside Rey Manaj up front.

Czech Republic possible starting lineup:
Vaclik; Coufal, Zima, Celustka, Boril; Soucek, Kral; Jankto, Darida, Hlozek; Schick

Albania possible starting lineup:
Selmani; Kumbulla, Djimsiti, Ismajli; Laci, Abrashi, Ramadani, Bare, Lenjani; Manaj, Cikalleshi


SM words green background

We say: Czech Republic 1-0 Albania

As well-drilled Albania have conceded only twice in their last four games - with clean sheets in both of their last two - it is unlikely that the Czech Republic can set off for Glasgow with a hatful of goals to boost their spirits.

Instead, the able - but far from prolific - home side can eke out a win, while allowing several squad members their chance to stake a claim to start against Scotland next week.



Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting under 3.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 3.5:data


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How you voted: Czech Republic vs Albania

Czech Republic
65.7%
Draw
21.6%
Albania
12.7%
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Czech Republic's Alex Kral pictured in November 2020
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Olympic medal table header
CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
ChinaChina32211669
United StatesUnited States24282173
JapanJapan1961136
AustraliaAustralia1441533
Olympics flagRussian Olympic Committee13211852
Great BritainGreat Britain13171343
Today's Olympic highlights header

Wednesday's key events


SKATEBOARDING
· Team GB starlet Sky Brown - aged just 13 - takes part in the women's park event and has a realistic chance of picking up a medal too. Bombette Martin is Britain's other representative, while hosts Japan are among the favourites for gold (1am)

HOCKEY
· Great Britain's women have more history in their sights heading into their semi-final against Netherlands - the team they beat in the 2016 gold medal match (2.30am)

ATHLETICS
· The men's 400m hurdles final on Tuesday will go down as one of the greatest Olympic races of all time, and the women will attempt to emulate that, with new world record holder Sydney McLaughlin of USA and Netherlands' Femke Bol the favourites for gold (3.30am)
· Nick Miller is Britain's representative in the men's hammer throw final (12.15pm)
· The men's 800m final could be a wide-open affair (1.05pm)
· A thrilling men's 200m final is in store as the likes of Andre de Grasse, Noah Lyles and 17-year-old sensation Erriyon Knighton bid to succeed Usain Bolt as Olympic champion (1.55pm)

SAILING
· After a medal-laden day on the water on Tuesday, Great Britain will be looking for more success, starting with Luke Patience and Chris Grube in the men's 470-class medal race (6.33am)
· Team GB also have medal hopes in the women's event, with defending champion Hannah Mills looking to retain her crown alongside new teammate Eilidh McIntyre (7.33am)

BOXING
· Already guaranteed at least a bronze, Great Britain's Frazer Clarke faces Uzbekistan's Bakhodir Jalolov in the men's super heavyweight with a place in the gold medal bout up for grabs (7.03am)
· Ben Whittaker is also guaranteed a medal, but will look to ensure that is either gold or silver as he takes on Cuba's Arlen Lopez in the light heavyweight final (7.35am)

CYCLING
· World records have been tumbling in the velodrome, and another could go in the men's team pursuit final as Italy - new world record holders themselves - face Denmark (10.06am)

EQUESTRIAN
· Three Brits have made into into the final of the men's jumping individual final, including fastest qualifier Ben Maher, who will bid to inherit compatriot Nick Skelton's Olympic crown (11am)

> Today's schedule in full
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