Unlike France, Germany, Italy and Portugal, Gareth Southgate opted to not use any of the Chelsea or Manchester City gamers who appeared in final month’s Champions League ultimate in both of England’s warm-up matches towards Austria and Romania. He felt it was extra vital that they’d time to relaxation.
Even if he was with out a few of his star names, what Southgate discovered from going through Romania was how the again 4 shouldn’t be working proper now.
England’s opponents, who didn’t even qualify for Euro 2020, created a worrying variety of probabilities and Sam Johnstone was referred to as into making a number of good saves.
Kyle Walker and Luke Shaw might begin in a again three for England in Harry Maguire’s absence
Ben Chilwell and Reece James might play at wing again after their Champions League exploits
The again 4 have been getting pulled out of place and the Romanians have been discovering area between the complete backs and centre backs. Better opponents would punish that.
Without Harry Maguire, who has now returned to coaching however is about to overlook this opening recreation, a again three could also be the most suitable choice for kicking off this match.
England could even find yourself fielding 4 full backs towards Croatia: two within the again three — Kyle Walker on the suitable and Luke Shaw on the left — then two extra within the wing-back positions in Reece James and Ben Chilwell after their Champions League exploits.
That can be paying homage to Euro 96, when Terry Venables began proper again Gary Neville and left again Stuart Pearce on both aspect of Tony Adams towards Scotland. Sitting in entrance of the again three towards the Scots that day was Southgate, so it’s an concept he’s very aware of.
Luke Shaw has had an excellent season for Manchester United and will play a giant half
ENGLAND CAN’T GET RUN RAGGED AGAIN
When England confronted Croatia within the 2018 World Cup semi-finals, Southgate’s aspect have been run ragged within the broad positions. He fielded a 3-1-4-2 formation and the wing-backs —Kieran Trippier on the suitable and Ashley Young on the left — got an excessive amount of to do.
Young, the eldest England participant at 33 years previous that day, lasted 90 minutes earlier than he wanted changing. Then Trippier picked up a groin downside in extra-time.
England have been uncovered in these areas and Southgate can not enable that to occur once more.
Using a entrance three on Sunday, as a substitute of the entrance two he utilized in 2018, would assist lighten the load for the wing backs.
Mason Mount and Declan Rice are childhood pals after each enjoying in Chelsea’s academy
If it’s a 3-4-3 that Southgate begins, then Declan Rice and Mason Mount is usually a strong partnership in midfield.
Mount made the 18th-most tackles within the Premier League final season and dedicated the seventh most fouls (whereas solely being yellow-carded twice).
He is tenacious however he is inventive, too, as he confirmed within the Champions League ultimate with that defence-splitting go for Kai Havertz’s winner.
Mount is an all-purpose participant and he can complement Rice in midfield. It’s in assault the place England have an actual embarrassment of riches.
Harry Kane begins as striker, however then there are six gamers preventing for 2 locations on both aspect of him. Jadon Sancho, Phil Foden and Bukayo Saka need the suitable wing. Raheem Sterling, Jack Grealish and Marcus Rashford need the left.
Whoever begins must stand up in assist of Kane, but additionally work laborious when England do not have the ball.
MODRIC THE STAR OF IMPRESSIVE CROATIA MIDFIELD
Since their final match, Croatia have misplaced a number of large names to retirement, resembling Mario Mandzukic, Ivan Rakitic and Danijel Subasic.
But they’re nonetheless led by Luka Modric they usually stay a aspect who like to manage video games.
A variety of that management comes by way of Marcelo Brozovic. The Inter Milan midfielder sits deep in Zlatko Dalic’s 4-3-3 set-up, with Modric and Mateo Kovacic on both aspect of him.
Brozovic will drop to obtain the ball from his defence but when he’s being marked, Modric and Kovacic are very happy to obtain it in tight conditions. Croatia are environment friendly with the ball — every part is one-touch, two-touch — and midfield is their strongest space.
Luka Modric is the jewel within the crown of a powerful midfield additionally that includes Mateo Kovacic
There is power in depth there, with the athletic Nikola Vlasic one other who’s impressing and could be launched from the substitutes’ bench.
On Croatia’s proper wing is Ante Rebic and on the left is Ivan Perisic.
Nobody coated extra distance on the 2018 World Cup than Perisic, who accomplished nearly two marathons all through that match.
These broad males for Croatia will drop to assist out defensively however they’re going to break ahead at tempo. They’re very direct with the ball they usually’ll be enjoying off Bruno Petkovic.
The 6ft 4in striker is a focus for this crew, like Mandzukic was in 2018.
Ivan Perisic has an unbelievable workrate and can assist out defensively in addition to in assault
Petkovic is not probably the most prolific — he averages a aim each three video games for Dinamo Zagreb — however then Mandzukic solely scored thrice en path to Croatia reaching the World Cup ultimate three years in the past.
What he was doing within the build-up was simply as vital, and Dalic has praised Petkovic for what he brings to the crew.
The first recreation of any competitors brings nerves. Croatia are a strong aspect, however England have sufficient to make this a successful begin.
KEOWN’S PREDICTION: 1-0 to England