By Neil Leverett
- After another dose of back to back wins last month, England travel to Prague to face the Czech Republic in the Euro 2020 qualifiers on Friday
- Three Lions have four wins from four in Group A and can all-but guarantee a spot in next summer’s tournament with victory
- Gareth Southgate has named a number of debutantes in squad, with Fikayo Tomori a potential starter
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC – England face the Czech Republic on Friday night, as the Three Lions play their fifth Euro 2020 qualifier at the Sinobo Stadium in Prague.
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England seek to climb City of Spires
With four games down in Group A, England are poised to guarantee their place in next summer’s European Championships 2020, ahead another international double header in the coming days, beginning with the Czech Republic on Friday evening.
As the Three Lions sit atop their perch with 12 points, Gareth Southgate‘s men will however be a little more chastened after their examination by a plucky Kosovo last time out, but in the knowledge a win in Prague will see England develop a six-point advantage over their Group rivals with just three games to play.
Despite the visitor’s rampant 5-0 win over Jaroslav Silhavy‘s side at Wembley back in March, the Czechs are again re-building the foundations for success and have won both of their qualifying games on their possible route to Euro 2020, and remain a threat.
Czech Schick threat
Spear-headed by striker Patrik Schick, the host’s chief source of danger has scored in three of the Czech Republic’s last four outings, and has a tally of four goals in Group A – despite currently standing as a rather forgotten man for club RB Leipzig, having moved away from AS Roma after playing second fiddle to Edin Dzeko in Serie A.
In many ways a classical English centre-forward, the still only 23-year-old could reach double figures against England on Friday night in the city of the his birth, on what will be his 20th appearance in his national colours.
Highly touted since his initial emergence in the Eternal City two season’s ago, Schick is being whispered amongst the ilk of Jan Koller and Milan Baros as the man to take the 1996 European runners-up to the next level once more – certainly the number nine has a similar eye for goal.
It would be naive to suggest Schick is the best hope to mount an assault on an England defence that has in recent times, been miserly in giving goals away, however in the last two game that same watertight shape has not been there, presenting hope for Czechs.
Not least in midfielder Tomas Soucek, who has been in differing form for Slavia Prague – the Czech champions who have no less than seven internationals in the squad – but has the capability of causing problems, as does skipper Vladimir Darida, who comes into this game fresh from breaking a two-year goal drought for Hertha Berlin in Germany last weekend. Midfielder Lukas Masopust has also carried a threat domestically in the Czech capital this season.
Startled Lions roar on
After a thought-provoking clash with Kosovo last month, England will be keen to again show their prowess at both ends of the field, after conceding three to in a competitive game for only the second time since 2010, in their 5-3 win in Southampton.
On a South coast evening where England’s soft defensive underbelly was again exposed, Southgate may have decisions to make in his back line, after a number of careless and sloppy periods of play again opened up the Three Lions to further questions for the bigger tests on the horizon.
That may see the inclusion of the likes of Chelsea’s Fikayo Tomori, who having been inserted into Frank Lampard‘s starting XI in the Premier League looks to be a capable asset at both ends of the field.
With Dean Henderson having earned a call-up also, the Sheffield United stopper is however, unlikely to dethrone Jordan Pickford in goal. The big question hangs over Tammy Abraham, with the Blues striker in scintillating form to start the new season, and with two caps already to his name, will look to notch his first senior goal for England, should the Three Lions give him the opportunity.
Perhaps remarkably, Friday’s clash will be just the fourth time the two sides have met, since the Czech Republic became a sovereign nation. England have never played a competitive match against the former Czechoslovakia away from home, as the Three Lions break new ground this weekend.
England have won out on two occasions, however in a friendly in August 2008, Joe Cole‘s late, late goal denied the Czechs a famous win after efforts from Baros and Marek Jankulovski had given the visitors a 2-1 lead.
As documented, England thrashed their Prague opponents via a Raheem Sterling hat-trick earlier this year, but the hosts will see a few chinks in the armour of the Europa League semi-finalists, and will be keen to avoid another mauling.
England face the Czech Republic at the Sinobo Stadium in Prague on Friday evening, kick-off 19.45 pm UK time.
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