Verdict: England win
Best Odds: 4/6
Opening up this summer’s European Championships on Sunday afternoon, England will welcome Croatia to Wembley for their first Group D contest this weekend.
Starting with the hosts, while England might have managed to land themselves a pair of friendly victories last week, The Three Lions failed to lay down much of a marker in the North West. Just about landing back-to-back 1-0 wins against Romania and Austria, Gareth Southgate’s side will know that they must make some improvements if they’re to get one over on their old enemy this weekend. Watching Croatia end their World Cup run at the semi-final stage out in Russia three years ago, The Whites are still tipped as a landslide pick to clinch top spot in Group D. With many from across Europe believing that this is England’s best chance to claim international success since 1966, Southgate has seen his side bounce back from their 2-0 defeat out in Belgium seven months ago. Managing to scrape their way to back-to-back friendly wins, Sunday’s hosts have won each of their last six straight matchups across all formats. With skipper Harry Kane lifting the Premier League’s Golden Boot this season, England should be looking to make a statement in the capital.
Despite returning to training with his teammates on Thursday, Manchester United defender Harry Maguire is not expected to feature this weekend. Wolves captain Conor Coady could partner John Stones at the heart of England’s defence.
Manchester City’s Phil Foden and Aston Villa star Jack Grealish appear to be in direct competition for a starting spot in Gareth Southgate’s attack.
As for the visitors, while England might have managed to land themselves a pair of friendly wins heading into this summer’s European Championships, the same cannot be said for Croatia. While The Blazers might have secured a showdown against France in the final of the 2018 World Cup, they have largely failed to build off of that success. Hit with a deserved 1-0 defeat away in Belgium when signing off their preparations last week, Zlatko Dalić’s side also came under real scrutiny for a shock 1-1 draw against Armenia in their opening friendly contest. Despite landing themselves a pair of much-needed victories against Cyprus and Malta earlier in the year, Croatia could only open March’s World Cup qualifiers with a sluggish 1-0 defeat away at Slovenia. In fact, mustering just a pair of wins from any of their last nine matchups across all formats, it should also be noted that Sunday’s guests have lost each of their last three contests on foreign soil.
Once again Croatia’s standout performer in their 1-0 loss against Belgium last week, Real Madrid ace Luka Modric should be joined by Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic in the middle of midfield.
Marseille’s Duje Ćaleta-Car should partner Domagoj Vida at the heart of Croatia’s defence at Wembley.
Key Factors to Consider
- When the two sides last faced off in the Nations League back in 2018, England picked up a 2-1 victory.
- Croatia have managed to win just a pair of their last nine matchups across all formats.
- Likewise, The Blazers have lost each of their last three straight matchups on foreign soil.
- England have won each of their last six contests, conceding just a single goal.
- Likewise, The Whites have also won 15 of their last 16 fixtures on home soil.
While England might have failed to lay down much of a marker in their friendly victories last week, they do enter this summer’s European Championships enjoying an extended winning run. Welcoming back a host of their biggest stars on Sunday afternoon, The Three Lions are seen as a landslide pick to clinch top spot in Group D. Enjoying a six-match winning run and only continuing to gain a reputation for their success on home soil, Gareth Southgate’s men should find the mood in their camp at a high. With Croatia showing a host of inconsistencies since their World Cup run three years ago, The Blazers might face another stern test at Wembley. Suffering a 2-1 defeat when they last faced off against England back in 2018, we’re backing a similar outcome here.
Verdict: England win
Best Odds: 4/6
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