The introduction of the UEFA Nations League means the tough fixtures keep coming for England, with Gareth Southgate’s side set for away trips to both Croatia and Spain in the coming days.
It will be the first meeting between Croatia and the Three Lions since their dramatic World Cup semi-final in July, but UEFA’s sanctions against the home side mean this tie will be played in totally different circumstances.
Daily Football Tips
Friday night’s match in Rijeka will be England’s 988th senior international since 1872, but the very first one they’ll have played behind closed doors.
The sanction comes after a swastika was marked on the pitch when Croatia hosted Italy in a Euro 2016 qualifier. The first game of the two-match ban was against Bulgaria in 2015, but Croatia have not played any UEFA-sanctioned home games since then.
That means outhgate’s side face the eerie prospect of their latest Nations League tie being played in an empty Stadion Rujevica.
England’s first experience of the brand new international format saw them beaten 2-1 by Spain at Wembley, whilst World Cup finalists Croatia fell to a surprising 6-0 defeat to the same opponents.
Injuries to the likes of Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard and Luke Shaw mean that Southgate’s latest squad is full of new faces, including James Maddison, Mason Mount and Jadon Sancho.
And it seems a lot of fans are tipping England’s exciting young talent to make an instant impact against Croatia on Friday night.
AskFans’ Betting Tip
Croatia did not perform anywhere near the level they showed during the World Cup in their Nations League opener against Spain last month.
But, away from home, we still see this as a huge challenge for England, especially with so many players that are inexperienced at international level. A win would be a very impressive result for Southgate’s side.