UEFA Nations League: Croatia vs England preview


World Cup runners-up Croatia and semi-finalists England will try to get their UEFA Nations League campaigns back on track when they clash on Friday at HNK Rijeka Stadium. The two teams last met in the semi-finals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup last summer, and at that time Croatia won 2-1 thanks to an extra-time goal from striker Mario Mandzukic. Before that match, England had won four of the previous six direct matches, while Croatia had only managed to capture a couple of wins. The two teams were in the same group during the qualification campaign for the 2010 World Cup, and back then England defeated Croatia quite heavily in both matches, 4-1 away and 5-1 at home.

Croatia had a disastrous start to their UEFA Nations League campaign as they were demolished 6-0 by Spain in September, a shameful result that came just a few days after a decent 1-1 friendly draw against Portugal. Head coach Zlatko Dalic had to deal with some important absences as both goalkeeper Danijel Subasic and striker Mario Mandzukic decided to retire from international football after the World Cup. Inter Milan pair Sime Vrsaljko and Marcelo Brozovic are injured and won't be part of the squad, while goalkeeper Lovre Kalinic is also out of contention. Croatia won't have the support of the home fans either, the match will be played without spectators.

England were also defeated by Spain in their UEFA Nations League debut, the Three Lions lost 2-1 at Wembley even though Marcus Rashford had put them ahead after just 11 minutes. Spain turned things around with two goals before half-time and are now comfortably leading the table in Group 4. England recovered from that defeat with a 1-0 friendly victory over Switzerland, and Rashford got his name on the score sheet in that match as well. Luke Shaw and James Tarkowski were the only injury headaches for manager Gareth Southgate during this international break, they were replaced with Ben Chilwell and Lewis Dunk.

Probable line-ups:

Croatia: Livakovic - Jedvaj, Lovren, Vida, Pivaric - Rebic, Modric, Kovacic, Rakitic, Perisic - Santini

England: Pickford - Gomez, Stones, Maguire - Trippier, Winks, Henderson, Barkley, Rose - Kane, Sterling

My prediction: 1-1 draw, none of the two teams seems capable of winning this one.

Here are the odds for the match at Bet365:

Croatia win - 2.64
Draw - 3.25
England win - 2.90

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