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Preview: England Under-21s vs. USA Under-23s

Sports Mole previews Thursday's international friendly between England Under-21s and USA Under-21s at Deepdale.

England Under-21s will kick-start a new era on Thursday as they face USA Under-23s side in a warm-up match for their Euro Under-21 qualifier against Norway next week.

USA, on the other hand, are building towards qualifying for next summer's Olympics in Brazil.

England Under-21s

Head coach of England Gareth Southgate is seen before the international friendly match between U21 Czech Republic and U21 England at Letna Stadium on March 27, 2015© Getty Images

England Under-21 boss Gareth Southgate will be hoping for a morale-boosting victory in Preston on Thursday as the Three Lions attempt to overcome what was a hugely disappointing European Under-21 championship in the summer.

Southgate's side were eliminated in the group stages of the 2015 tournament, eventually finishing bottom of the group behind Portugal, Sweden and Italy. The young Lions faced huge criticism for their performances in the Czech Republic, but with qualification for the 2017 edition in Poland just around the corner, there is no time to dwell on the past.

Indeed, this friendly against USA is a warm-up for the real business, which starts next Monday. England's first Group 9 fixture is away to Norway on September 9 and they will not be in action again until October 12, when they host their Kazakhstan counterparts.

Switzerland and Bosnia-Herzegovina also make up England's group, which has already got underway with Norway beating Bosnia 2-0 on June 13. During an interview with the FA's official website, Southgate said that he was looking forward to "a good test" against "a USA team which is a little bit older and wiser and who will be making up their Olympic team for Rio next year".

A number of new players will be given the chance to impress at Deepdale, but Southgate has also included familiar faces in the shape of Calum Chambers, Jordan Ibe, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and James Ward-Prowse.

England's last home friendly at this level ended in a 1-0 win over Belarus on June 11, while they also beat Germany 3-2 earlier this year on home soil. Youth football in England is certainly a hot topic at the moment and plenty of eyes will be on the next generation once again here.

Recent form: WWWLWL

USA Under-23s

Gedion Zelalem of Arsenal in action during the pre-season friendly match between Urawa Red Diamonds and Arsenal at Saitama Stadium on July 26, 2013© Getty Images

As mentioned, Thursday evening will provide a unique test for England's Under-21 outfit, who welcome a USA Under-23 side who have their eyes on a spot at next summer's Olympic Games.

The primary role of this particular team is to secure qualification to the Olympics, something which has not been achieved since 2008, when they went out in the group stages despite taking four points from their three group games in China.

USA's best-ever performance occurred in the 2000 Olympics, when they finished in fourth position. They had the chance to qualify for the 2012 edition in London, but failure to make the showpiece event three years ago has made qualification this time around even more important.

In terms of recent results, it has been a disappointing period for USA's Under-23 side. Their last official match was away to Denmark's Under-21 side in March, when they were beaten 1-0. They also lost 3-0 to Brazil's Under-23 side last October in what was their first match since failing to qualify for the 2012 Games.

Qualification for Rio begins next month and they will face Canada, Cuba and Panama in quick succession, which makes this clash against England even more important in terms of fitness and indeed togetherness ahead of the competition.

USA, who will also face Qatar in a friendly on September 8, do not have too many familiar faces in their squad to a wider audience, but Tottenham Hotspur's 17-year-old defender Cameron Carter-Vickers has been included alongside on-loan Arsenal attacker Gedion Zelalem.

Recent form: LWLDLL

Team News

Manchester United's young striker James Wilson celebrates a goal against Cambridge United on February 3, 2015© Getty Images

Brighton & Hove Albion goalkeeper Christian Walton had been tipped to start between the sticks for Southgate's side, but a groin problem suffered while on loan at Bury has placed the 19-year-old's involvement in severe doubt.

As it stands, no player joining up with the squad has reported an injury to the camp, which has left Southgate with plenty of options all over the pitch.

Manchester United's James Wilson could start in attack alongside Arsenal's on-loan striker Chuba Akpom, while there should be experience in the shape of Loftus-Cheek and Ward-Prowse.

Norwich City's Nathan Redmond is also expected to start for the hosts.

USA Under-23s, meanwhile, also have no fresh injury concerns ahead of the match.

MK Dons stopper Cody Cropper could start between the sticks, while Fulham's Emerson Hyndman is also expected to feature from the onset.

Two Germany-based players will hope to lead the line for the visitors, with Jerome Kiesewetter and Mario Rodriguez playing their club football for Stuttgart and Borussia Monchengladbach respectively.

England Under-21s possible starting lineup:
Pickford; Dier, Gomez, Chambers, Galloway; Ibe, Loftus-Cheek, Ward-Prowse, Redmond; Wilson, Akpom

USA Under-23s possible starting lineup:
Cropper; Carter-Vickers, Miller, O'Neill, Serna; Hyndman, Polster, Joya, Zelalem; Kiesewetter, Rodriguez

Head To Head

This will be the first time that the two countries have met in this format.

However, the senior teams have faced off 10 times since 1950. England have recorded seven wins during that run of games, drawing once and losing twice.

Their last meeting was in the 2010 World Cup, with the group-stage match finishing 1-1.

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We say: England Under-21s 2-0 USA Under-23s

It should be a good test for England against a team full of players hoping to win places for their upcoming qualification games for the Olympics. That said, we feel that the home side's quality will ultimately be enough to claim a fairly routine victory.

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Joe Gomez Liverpool FC in action during the international friendly match between Brisbane Roar and Liverpool FC at Suncorp Stadium on July 17, 2015
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Olympic medal table header
CountryGold medalSilver MedalBronze MedalT
United StatesUnited States98825
Olympics flagOlympic Athletes from Russia77418
Great BritainGreat Britain45413
Today's Olympic highlights header

Wednesday's key events

· Team GB have dominated the men's coxless fours in recent Olympics, winning on each of the last five occasions, but this year they face some stiff competition. They are one of four rowing medal contenders for Great Britain today (2.10am)

· Katie Ledecky and Ariarne Titmus face off again in the women's 200m freestyle final, with the latter having already come out on top in the 400m event (2.41am)
· Team GB's Abbie Wood is among the medal contenders in the women's 200m individual medley final, while teammate Alicia Wilson will also take part. USA's Kate Douglass was the fastest qualifier, while world and Olympic record holder Katinka Hosszu is also involved (3.45am)
· Katie Ledecky could make it two golds in one morning as she goes into the 1500m freestyle final as heavy favourite, having broken the Olympic record in qualifying (3.54am)
· Team GB were by far the fastest qualifiers for the men's 4x200m freestyle relay final and will therefore be favourites for another gold in the pool (4.26am)

· Team GB take on New Zealand in the first men's semi-final, having been beaten by reigning champions Fiji but then come from behind to overcome USA on day two (3am)
· The sevens gold medal match takes place at Tokyo Stadium, with the winner of Great Britain vs. New Zealand taking on either Argentina or Fiji (10am)

· Joe Fraser and James Hall compete for Team GB in the men's all-around final (11.15am-2.10pm)

· Anna Shackley will take part in the women's road time trial (from 3.30am)
· Geraint Thomas and Tao Geoghegan Hart have medal ambitions for Great Britain in the men's road time trial, although both will need to recover from the crash they suffered on Saturday (6am)

· Jack Laugher bids to retain his men's 3m synchro diving title alongside new partner Daniel Goodfellow (7am)

· Charlotte Dujardin will look to add to her already legendary status with a third successive Olympic individual dressage title (9.30am-1.25pm)

> Today's schedule in full
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