England travel to Prague to face the Czech Republic in the UEFA European Championship qualifying on Friday night looking to rack up a fifth straight win in Group A.
England currently sit top of Group A, picking up a maximum 12 points from their first four games after brushing aside their group opponents with relative ease in the first meetings.
Gareth Southgate’s side have scored 19 times in qualification so far and have conceded just four. Sitting three points clear at the top, victory in Prague would put England on the verge of qualification with three group games still to play.
However, it will be a tough test though on Friday, with the Czech Republic currently second in Group A on nine points, right on England’s tails and with a real shot of qualification themselves, knowing a win against the Three Lions would take them level at the top.
With much at stake, here is 90min’s preview of Friday’s clash.
Where to Watch
|When Is Kick Off?||Friday 11 October|
|What Time Is Kick Off?||19:45 (BST)|
|Where Is it Played?||Sinobo Stadium|
|TV Channel/Live Stream?||ITV 1|
England have a 24-man squad for the trip to face Czech Republic on Friday, with Chelsea trio Fikayo Tomori, Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham all selected by Southgate after impressing under Frank Lampard so far this term.
Creative midfielders Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard have been left out of the squad after struggling to find form this season, with Southgate opting to choose James Maddison and Ross Barkley. Alongside this, again there is no place for Manchester City defender Kyle Walker, with the 29-year-old, who missed out in the September qualifiers not selected again as Southgate continues to try other options.
Lastly, Everton midfielder Fabian Delph was named in the squad but withdrew on Monday after he picked up a hamstring injury during the Toffees defeat at Burnley in the Premier League on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Czech Republic manager Jaroslav Silhavy will be without defenders Pavel Kaderabek and Bristol City man Tomas Kalas for the game against England, with the former currently ill and Kalas not yet fit after continuing to recover from a hamstring injury.
In more positive news for the hosts, RB Leipzig forward Patrik Schick is available and set to lead the line which could cause problems for Harry Maguire and co., with the striker scoring four goals in his last four games for his country.
|Czech Republic||Vaclik; Coufal, Celustka, Brabec, Boril; Darida, Soucek, Masopust, Kral, Jankto; Schick|
|England||Pickford; Alexander-Arnold, Keane, Maguire, Chilwell; Henderson, Rice, Barkley; Sancho, Sterling, Kane|
Head to Head Record
The most recent meeting was in March this year in England’s first Euro 2020 qualifying game. A hat-trick that night from the superb Raheem Sterling helped England crush Czech Republic 5-0 to move top of the group, with Harry Kane also getting in on the act, converting a penalty in first-half stoppage time.
As eluded to earlier, England have been on fire so far in their qualifying campaign, storming to the top of the group, defeating Group A opponents Kosovo, Bulgaria, Montenegro and Czech Republic in style in the first round of games.
After thumping the Czech Republic for five back in March at Wembley, England handed out similar punishment to Montenegro in Podgorica, with Ross Barkley the star that night, scoring twice and creating a further one in a 5-1 thrashing.
A routine win against Bulgaria followed last month, but not after disappointment in the UEFA Nations League in the summer, with Southgate’s side losing out to the Netherlands due to late defensive errors.
Defensive mistakes also crept into England’s performance last time out against Kosovo. Even though England came out on top, Kosovo found the back of Jordan Pickford’s net three times, mainly due to terrible defensive mistakes.
The Czech Republic meanwhile have bounced back from their week one crushing against England well, picking up two wins against Montenegro, drubbing them 3-0 both times, as well as edging out Bulgaria at home.
A 2-1 defeat in September away at Kosovo would have been a concern for manager Silhavy, but with nine points, one ahead of Kosovo, Czech Republic look in a decent position to qualify for next summer’s Euros in second place behind the Three Lions.
Here’s how both countries have performed in their last five games.
|Montenegro 0-3 Czech Republic (10/09)||England 5-3 Kosovo (10/09)|
|Kosovo 2-1 Czech Republic (07/09)||England 4-0 Bulgaria (07/09)|
|Czech Republic 3-0 Montenegro (10/06)||Switzerland 0-0 England (09/06)|
|Czech Republic 2-1 Bulgaria (07/06)||Netherlands 3-1 England (06/06)|
|Czech Republic 1-3 Brazil (26/03)||Montenegro 1-5 England (25/03)|
Victory on Friday would put England on the verge of qualification meaning Southgate’s squad should be fired up for this one, especially knowing defeat would mean the Czech Republic would move level on points with England - albeit having played a game more.
With England possessing so much quality in attack, with both Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho providing electrifying pace in the final third, alongside deadly finisher Harry Kane, England should have too much quality for their opponents on Friday.
Defensively England have been frail at times though, with Michael Keane struggling at the heart of the defence last time out. This will of course give the Czech Republic hope of causing an upset and shaking Group A up, but whilst they may score, keeping out England at the other end will be the problem.
Prediction: Czech Republic 1-3 England