There will be an eerie feel to the Stadion Rujevica on Friday night, with the ground in Rijeka set to be barely populated due to UEFA’s insistence that Croatia play this Nations League clash behind closed doors.
It’s a decision that is not to the liking of Zlatko Dalic or Gareth Southgate, considering that their teams recently clashed in front of full houses at the World Cup, eventually meeting each other in a semi-final which saw Croatia triumph after extra-time.
Since then, the Blazers have suffered a hangover from the tournament which saw them blitzed 6-0 by Spain last month in Elche, with Dalic blaming tiredness for a defeat, which saw La Roja three goals ahead by the break before adding to their tally. Even so, should the Blazers really be the outsiders to win against England?
Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic have both started the season brightly despite Real Madrid and Barcelona struggling more than usual, with the majority of the squad playing for Champions League sides and ready to restore some national pride.
Southgate has called for patience as he blends in young players to the squad, partly thanks to the absence of players such as Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard and Fabian Delph.
Quite whether James Maddison, Mason Mount or Jadon Sancho plays any part in this game or the later match against Spain remains to be seen, although the squad has a youthful look and perhaps it’s a little short of goal.
Bet365 goes 9/5 about the Three Lions winning for the first time in the Nations League and we might be looking for something bigger away to one of the stronger teams in Europe, with Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling the two most capped players in the set-up.
Whichever team loses in Rijeka are likely to be strong candidates to be relegated from the top tier of the Nations League and the first port of call from an England perspective is to avoid defeat considering that Croatia still have to visit Wembley.
We’re always interested in the odds about No Goalscorer when England are playing these type of matches and you can get 13/2 with bet365 about this happening, which would also pay out if the only goal of the match is an own goal.
Harry Kane is 19/5 with BetVictor to score the opening goal and he’s been looking fairly sharp for Tottenham Hotspur this season, while Southgate has called upon Sterling to add goals to his bright performances for the national side and the Manchester City winger is 17/2 with Paddy Power to break the deadlock.
It could be a case of defences on top and we think the 13/2 about a Croatia 1-0 winning scoreline looks a decent shout with Unibet, with the home side looking to get their noses in front and then effectively nullify a visiting side missing key players.
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