MX23RW : Sunday, October 20 22:01:07| >> :600:31496671:31496671:

Preview: Croatia vs. England - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole looks ahead to Friday's UEFA Nations League match between Croatia and England, including team news, predictions and a full match preview.

England will have the chance to exact some revenge on their World Cup conquerors on Friday when they take on Croatia at the HNK Rijeka Stadium in a match which will be played behind closed doors.

Both teams will be looking for their first points of the UEFA Nations League campaign having each lost to fellow League A Group Four rivals Spain last month.


Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic reacts during the match against Argentina on June 21, 2018© Reuters

It is often surprising how quickly things can change in football, and no team has felt the brunt of that more than Croatia in recent months.

The Vatreni enjoyed the greatest moment of their footballing history on July 11 when they came from behind to beat England in the World Cup semi-finals, reaching the biggest stage in the sport for the first time ever.

Fast forward exactly two months, and Zlatko Dalic's side were brought crashing back down to earth with a chastening 6-0 defeat at the hands of Spain - their heaviest ever loss.

Incidentally their biggest defeat prior to their last outing came at the hands of England, but Dalic will be demanding a response from his players when they welcome the Three Lions to Rijeka on Friday night.

It takes a lot to sap the momentum from a best-ever performance at the World Cup, but including their defeat in the final to France and last month's rout at the hands of Spain, Croatia are now winless in three games since their semi-final glory and have conceded 11 goals in that time.

Not to take anything away from their World Cup success, but there were perhaps signs that Croatia were punching above their weight in Russia; their group-stage performances were very impressive - none more so than the 3-0 win over Argentina - but they needed either extra time or penalties to get through each of their knockout games so it is now three-and-a-half months since they won a match in normal time.

Failure to beat England on Friday would make for Croatia's longest winless run since June 2006, while another defeat would condemn them to successive losses for the first time since October 2013.

It would also edge them towards possible relegation from the UEFA Nations League, with the goal difference having taken a significant hit in that heavy loss to Spain - their only match in the competition so far.

However, Croatia are unbeaten in their last 18 matches on home soil - a run which stretches back to October 2013 and includes 15 wins - while they have scored at least once in each of their last 20 home outings.

Friday will be their first appearance on home soil since their World Cup heroics too, although there will be no crowd to welcome them with Croatia being forced to play this game behind closed doors due to a swastika being marked on their pitch back in June 2015.

Recent Nations League form: L
Recent form (all competitions): WWWLDL


England manager Gareth Southgate watches on during his side's international friendly with Switzerland on September 11, 2018© Reuters

The pain of the semi-final defeat in Russia will still be fresh for many England fans, and for those beginning to get over it, facing the same opponents again so soon afterwards is sure to revive those memories.

However, it also represents the opportunity to get some measure of revenge on Dalic's side, while also ushering in a number of new players to the international scene.

Manager Gareth Southgate has included no fewer than seven uncapped players in his squad for the double-header against Croatia and Spain, with Jordan Henderson now the most experienced member of the group with 46 caps.

It is a bold move by Southgate considering the calibre of the opposition coming up, but one which states loud and clear that good performances at club level will be rewarded - whether you are the 28-year-old Alex McCarthy or the 18-year-old Jadon Sancho.

England were not brought down to earth quite as ferociously as Croatia after the World Cup, but they were still shown that they have work to do by a Spain side which struggled so much in Russia, falling to a 2-1 defeat at Wembley in their Nations League opener.

However, the Three Lions did return to winning ways just three days later courtesy of Marcus Rashford's goal against Switzerland at the King Power Stadium - a result which saw them pick up just their second win inside normal time from their last seven outings.

Southgate's side could now record back-to-back victories for the first time since their opening two World Cup group games, and should they continue that form in Spain on Monday night then it really would be a statement from this youthful squad.

England have won their last three away games and could win four on the bounce for the first time since 2011, which would see them move level on points with Spain at the top of League A Group Four ahead of their match next week.

Plenty has changed since England's dreams of emulating the class of 1966 were ended in Moscow - including new faces and a new contract for Southgate - and the visitors will be hoping for a different result on Friday night too.

Recent Nations League form: L
Recent form (all competitions): WWLLLW

Team News

Jadon Sancho in action for Borussia Dortmund on October 6, 2018© Reuters

Of the seven potential England debutants and four first-time call-ups to this squad, none has enjoyed as much hype as Sancho.

The Borussia Dortmund man has been in sparkling form so far this season with nine assists in just 10 appearances, and he is already being linked with a move back to the Premier League as a result.

Lewis Dunk, Mason Mount and James Maddison have also been named in the squad for the first time, meanwhile, with the latter perhaps most likely to start from that quartet.

James Tarkowski, Luke Shaw, Danny Rose and McCarthy have been forced to withdraw from the squad, while England are also without the likes of Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard and Ashley Young.

Croatia, meanwhile, officially boast the world's best player in Luka Modric, who is one of two centurions in the squad alongside Ivan Rakitic.

Mario Mandzukic has retired from international duty, though, which could see Ivan Santini lead the line for this match despite being yet to score at international level.

Liverpool's Dejan Lovren is back in the squad as one of two Premier League representatives, alongside Chelsea's Mateo Kovacic, but Dalic will be without the likes of Sime Vrsaljko, Marcelo Brozovic, Borna Barisic, Lovre Kalinic and Duje Cop due to injuries.

Croatia possible starting lineup:
Livkovic; Jedvaj, Lovren, Vida, Pivaric; Kovacic, Rakitic; Rebic, Modric, Perisic; Santini

England possible starting lineup:
Pickford; Gomez, Stones, Maguire; Henderson; Trippier, Barkley, Winks, Chilwell; Sterling, Kane

Head To Head

These two nations have met on eight previous occasions, with England winning four of those to Croatia's three.

Of course, the most notable previous clash between the two sides came just three months ago when Croatia beat England after extra time to reach the final of the World Cup.

The Three Lions won on their most recent visit to Croatia, though, with Theo Walcott scoring a hat-trick in a 4-1 win during qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.

Sports Mole Logo

We say: Croatia 1-1 England

Croatia were swept aside by Spain last time out and will be demanding a response, but the closed stadium means that they will not be able to make the most of their home advantage. England, meanwhile, have a very inexperienced squad and would regard a point away to Croatia as a decent result.

body check tags ::

Who will win Friday's UEFA Nations League clash between Croatia and England?

Share this article now:
Instagram - Follow Sports Mole
Croatia winger Ante Rebic reacts during his side's World Cup quarter-final with Russia
Read Next:
How Croatia could line up against England

Premier League
Rugby World Cup
La Liga
Serie A
Ligue 1
Scottish Premiership
League One
Turkish Super Lig
Belgian Pro League
Greek Superleague
Russian Premier League
Ukrainian Premier League
Swiss Super League
Danish Superliga
Norwegian Eliteserien
Swedish Allsvenskan
Segunda Division
Serie B
MLS Playoffs
Argentine Primera Division
Uruguayan Primera Division
Liga MX
Premier League 2 - Div 1
Australian A-League
Chinese Super League
Gallagher Premiership
2Manchester CityMan City96122992019
3Leicester CityLeicester9522168817
6Crystal Palace9423810-214
7Tottenham HotspurSpurs93331513212
10West Ham UnitedWest Ham93331113-212
11Aston Villa93241513211
12Wolverhampton WanderersWolves92521212011
13Manchester UnitedMan Utd9243109110
15Sheffield UnitedSheff Utd82337709
16Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton9234912-39
18Newcastle UnitedNewcastle9225514-98
19Norwich CityNorwich92161021-117

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Transfer Talk Daily
Match previews - twice weekly
Morning Briefing (7am UTC)
Ultra close-up image of Kevin De Bruyne [NOT FOR USE IN ARTICLES]Get the latest transfer news, match previews and news direct to your inbox!