Croatia and Spain Pose Huge Test for England’s Nations League Hopes

England may have recorded a much-needed win last time out on their friendly game against Switzerland at the King Power Stadium, but the fact remains that the Three Lions have lost three of their last four games, and two of those defeats just so happen to have come against teams in their Nations League group.

While Spain will warm up for England’s second fixture of the week with a game against Wales, Croatia will be England’s first test in a match on Friday night, which is a repeat of this summer’s dramatic World Cup semifinal, which Croatia won in injury time after goals from Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic cancelled out Kieran Trippier’s opener.

England have named a 25-man squad for the two games, but missing from the squad are a number of more experienced players through injury with the likes of Dele Alli, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Jesse Lingard, Adam Lallana, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Fabian Delph, Demarai Gray all unavailable due to injury, while Luke Shaw and James Tarkowski withdrew from the squad through injury and were replaced by Ben Chilwell and Lewis Dunk.

Any England match is always a great betting opportunity and bet365 are offering a number of different bets on both games for the Three Lions this week. If you fancy a bet on the match, then check out the latest bet365 Sport New Player Bonus to get yourself started on the site.

Let’s now look at Gareth Southgate’s squad for the games this week.

England Squad to face Croatia & Spain

Position Name Club Caps Goals
G Marcus Bettinelli Fulham 0 0
G Jack Butland Stoke City 9 0
G Jordan Pickford Everton 11 0
G Alex McCarthy Southampton 0 0
D Trent Al-Arnold Liverpool 3 0
D Joe Gomez Liverpool 4 0
D Harry Maguire Leicester City 14 1
D Danny Rose Tottenham 25 0
D Ben Chilwell Leicester City 1 0
D John Stones Manchester City 35 2
D Lewis Dunk Brighton 0 0
D Kieran Trippier Tottenham 15 1
D Kyle Walker Manchester City 41 0
M Ross Barkley Chelsea 22 2
M Nathaniel Chalobah Watford 0 0
M Eric Dier Tottenham 34 3
M Jordan Henderson Liverpool 46 0
M James Maddison Leicester City 0 0
M Mason Mount Derby Co 0 0
M Jadon Sancho Borussia Dortmund 0 0
M Raheem Sterling Manchester City 44 2
M Harry Winks Tottenham 1 0
A Harry Kane Tottenham 32 19
A Marcus Rashford Manchester United 27 5
A Danny Welbeck Arsenal 42 16

League A – Group 4

  • Matchday 1 – England 1-2 Spain
  • Matchday 2 – Spain 6-0 Croatia

Table

Pos Team Ply For Ag Pts Gd
1 Spain 2 8 1 6 +7
2 England 1 1 2 0 -1
3 Croatia 1 0 6 0 -6

Forthcoming Games

  • 12th October – Croatia v England

Based on the squad selected, the probable team to start against Croatia on Friday could well be:

  • England – 3-5-2 – Pickford, Walker, Stones, Maguire, Trippier, Rose, Henderson, Dier, Barkley, Sterling, Kane

Croatia Squad

The Croatian squad have failed to win since their 2-1 semifinal victory over England in the World Cup, losing the final 4-2 to France before drawing 1-1 in Portugal in a friendly in September, followed by a 6-0 thumping by Spain in Elche a few days later. Zlatko Dalic has named a squad missing a number of big names from the World Cup including Vrsaljko, Strinic, Brozovic and the retired Mario Mandzukic.

Based on the squad, I expect the Croatian team to face England to be:

  • Croatia – 4-5-1 – Livakovic, Mitrovic, Milic, Vida, Lovren, Rakitic, Modric, Kovacic, Perisic, Rebic, Kramaric.

While the Spanish have run away with the group so far and remain the strong favourites to win it (and indeed, the Nations League as a whole), this is a game neither side will want to lose with memories of the World Cup semifinal still fresh for both sides. In addition, whoever does the best out of the two games between the teams will retain their place in the elite League A for the next Nations League, rather than dropping down into League B.

I am expecting an exciting game here, Croatia I feel will want to control midfield and if Gareth Southgate has learned anything from the semifinal, it will be that he cannot let Rakitic, Modric and Kovacic control the game from there. However, I do feel this Croatian side lacks that kind of quality in attack and they are also much weaker defensively with two key full backs out injured and a new and inexperienced keeper likely to start.

As such, I think this will be another close game between the sides and in truth, I think the draw, which is 11/5 with bet365 at the time of writing, is the best value bet here.

  • 15th October – Spain v England

How the teams line up for this game in Seville will likely be determined by how both sides perform in their games before. While England face Croatia three days before this game, Spain have a friendly game against Wales to warm them up for the England match and in truth, they looked in absolutely stunning form when dismantling Croatia 6-0 in Elche in their second Nations League game.

That followed on from a fine win against England at Wembley, so I am expecting the Spanish to be the odds on favourites to win this game, especially against an English team that has a poor record in Spain in recent times, their last win coming in February 1987, when Gary Lineker grabbed four goals in a 4-2 win for the Three Lions.

Spain have lost just one of the last seven matches between the teams (a 1-0 loss at Wembley back in November 2011) and they have won five of those games. Goals have been a rarity in the games, with most games seeing just one team score, making the win to nil option certainly a more appealing bet.

There’s no odds yet available on the Spain England match, but when they are available I would be looking at the Spain to win to nil option and I’d also consider backing Marco Asensio to grab a goal with the Real Madrid man looking to become a key man for Spain over the coming years.


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