England will look to kickstart their UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying campaign with a win, when they face off against Czech Republic on Friday night.

The qualifiers for the UEFA Euro 2020 are set to kick off this week, with World Cup semi-finalists England set to begin their Group A campaign against Czech Republic at the Wembley Stadium on Friday.

Last year was a fantastic one for Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions as they made it all the way to the semi-finals of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. They followed it up with a solid campaign in the UEFA Nations League and have made it to the final phase of the competition that will take place in the upcoming summer.

England have lost just one of their six fixtures post the World Cup – a 2-1 defeat to Spain in the Nations League (W4 D1). Their most recent fixture ended in a 2-1 triumph over Croatia in November last year in a dramatic fashion, sealing their place in the Nations League finals. They will want to begin the qualifying campaign on a strong note with a win.

Czech Republic, on the other hand, failed to qualify for the World Cup while their UEFA Nations League campaign too did not bring a lot of success, as they finished second in Group B1, failing to earn promotion, although they did manage to stave off relegation.

Jaroslav Silhavy’s side have won and lost three each of their last six matches, and head into Friday’s match on the back of consecutive 1-0 victories over Poland and Slovakia. They will want to put themselves in a strong position to qualify for the UEFA Euro 2020, by beginning the qualifying campaign with a win over the Three Lions.

Team News & Tactics

England

Declan Rice and Callum Hudson-Odoi have been called up for the first time by manager Gareth Southgate for the upcoming set of fixtures. Jesse Lingard, Joe Gomez and Harry Winks miss out with injuries. Fabian Delph, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Luke Shaw, John Stones and Trent Alexander-Arnold all withdrew from the squad, while Southampton midfielder James Ward-Prowse has earned a call-up.

Marcus Rashford is the latest to withdraw from the England squad, after Southgate confirmed the Manchester United striker will miss out from both the games on Thursday

Southgate is likely to set his team up in the 3-4-3 formation at Wembley on Friday night, with Jordan Pickford expected to start in goal despite his indifferent form for Everton of late. Kyle Walker will slot in as one of the three centre-halves for England, along with Michael Keane and Harry Maguire.

Kieran Trippier should start in the right wing-back slot, while Danny Rose is likely to get the nod over Ben Chilwell on the opposite side. Jordan Henderson has been nursing a slight ankle issue and might not feature, while Southgate might decide to hold Rice as well, meaning Eric Dier starts in midfield, alongside Dele Alli, who will be tasked with providing the forward impetus.

With Rashford ruled out, Jadon Sancho should get the nod on the right flank for England. Raheem Sterling has had a sensational season and is easily one of the best players in the Premier League on current form. He should take up another spot in the forward line, with captain Harry Kane leading the line.

Probable Lineup (3-4-3): Pickford; Walker, Keane, Maguire; Trippier, Dier, Alli, Rose; Sancho, Kane, Sterling

Czech Republic

Goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik has been ruled out of the upcoming fixtures against England and Brazil with an injury for Czech Republic. Captain and playmaker Borek Dockal is a doubt with a calf muscle problem. Manager Jaroslav Silhavy is likely to set his team up in a 4-1-4-1 formation at Wembley against England.

With Vaclik ruled out, Rennes goalkeeper Tomas Koubek is set to get the nod under the crossbar for the visitors. Pavel Kaderabek will line up at right-back with Filip Novak on the opposite side. Both will have their hands full dealing with the threat of Sterling and Rashford, while having to keep an eye out for the onrushing wing-backs as well.

Tomas Kalas will be tasked with keeping Harry Kane under wraps on Friday night. He will be partnered by Ondrej Celustka at the heart of the Czech defence. 24-year-old Tomas Soucek will slot in as the defensive midfielder for the visitors and will be key in keeping Dele Alli’s runs from midfield at a minimum.

Dockal should recover to take up one of the attacking midfield slots for Silhavy’s side and will share the creative responsibilities with David Pavelka. Burnley forward Matej Vydra will slot in on the right flank and look to cause problems drifting in from the wing. Jakub Jankto should get the nod on the left-side, with AS Roma forward Patrik Schick set to lead the line.

Probable Lineup (4-1-4-1): Koubek; Kaderabek, Celustka, Kalas, Novak; Soucek; Vydra, Dockal, Pavelka, Jankto; Schick

Key Stats

  • England have won four of their last five fixtures and have lost just once since the 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign ended.
  • England and Czech Republic have met just twice till date. The first meeting in 1998 ended in a 2-0 win for the Three Lions, while the two teams played out a 2-2 draw in 2008.
  • Czech Republic have won both of their previous games, scoring a goal apiece in each match, while conceding none.
  • In their six matches post the World Cup, England have scored 10 goals and have shipped in 4 goals, managing  three shut-outs in the process.

Player to Watch

Raheem Sterling

In red-hot form (Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

In red-hot form (Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

It has been a season to remember for the Manchester City superstar, who has well and truly established himself as one of the best players in the Premier League. In 40 matches across all competitions this term, Sterling has come up with exceptional returns of 19 goals and 16 assists.

The 24-year-old goes into Friday night’s game in hot form, having scored four goals and assisted one more in his last three appearances for City in all competitions. Sterling, however, hasn’t always been able to translate his club form on to the international stages.

Till date, the Manchester City attacker has managed just four goals for the England national team in as many as 47 matches. Given how well he has been playing of late, Sterling will be hoping to make a valuable contribution and fire the Three Lions to a victory against Czech Republic.

Prediction

England 2-1 Czech Republic

England go into the game without a number of key players that were part of their exceptional World Cup campaign and the UEFA Nations League post that over the last year. However, manager Southgate has more than enough quality at his disposal to put out a strong XI.

Czech Republic will come into the game with a defensive mindset and look to stay tight at the back and capitalise on the counter. They have proven to be a hard nut to crack defensively, as was seen in their last game against Poland, when they managed to keep Robert Lewandowski silent.

But, given the form that England’s front-three of Sterling, Sancho and Kane have been in, coupled with the threat of Callum Hudson-Odoi from the bench, they should have enough firepower to breach the visitors’ backline. And as a result, we at The Hard Tackle are predicting a winning start to the Three Lions’ UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.