George Pitts expects England to get their campaign off to a promising start, but fancies the Czech Republic to at least get on the score sheet at Wembley.
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England v Czech Republic (UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier)
- ITV, 1945 GMT kick-off
England will get their qualifying campaign for Euro 2020 underway on Friday evening as they host Czech Republic at Wembley.
With the domestic campaign hitting a crucial point of the season, Gareth Southgate is without a number of players who have had to pull out through injury, some cases probably their clubs erring on the side of caution ahead of the final Premier League run-in.
Marcus Rashford is the most recent player to withdraw, following Trent-Alexander Arnold, Fabian Delph, John Stones, Luke Shaw and Ruben Loftus-Cheek in doing so.
The Three Lions will not only see this as a good chance to cement their place in next year's tournament, but to practice playing together further and gather momentum ahead of June's UEFA Nations League semi-finals, where they will face Netherlands in Portugal.
Czech Republic were once a European dark horse with some big name players, the likes of Pavel Nedved, Tomas Rosicky, Petr Cech and Milan Baros in recent years. Nowadays, less so as they sit 44th in FIFA's most recent international rankings with much less household names in their squad.
They failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, but their recent results have improved with three wins in four and back to back clean sheets.
One player to watch is young Patrik Schick (pictured, above), a 23-year-old forward who plays for Roma. He has five goals and two assists to his name for the Giallorossi this season and an impressive five goals in 14 appearances for his country.
Jaroslav Silhavy will no doubt be hoping to keep it tight at the back in the first half before nicking it in the second, but keeping England's attack quiet could be a tough ask for the visitors.
Prediction: England 3-1 Czech Republic (Sky Bet odds: 12/1)
There is a lot of positivity around the national team after the World Cup and it is difficult to see the Three Lions getting off to anything but a good start to their qualifying campaign, but it may be tougher than many expect due to the Czechs' recent form and several withdrawals in Southgate's squad. His XI should still be more than capable of getting a result in entertaining fashion in front of the home fans.
Best bet: BTTS at 7/4
It may look simple on the face of it, but the price available made it too tempting to go elsewhere. The initial preference was to back the visitors to get on the score sheet, but the 7/4 on both teams scoring on Friday offers better value with us still expecting the hosts to win.
With injuries to the defence - Luke Shaw, John Stones and Trent Alexander-Arnold among the absentees - Southgate's defence could be the weakness. Jordan Pickford has been out of sorts of late in goal, while a pairing of Michael Keane and Harry Maguire with attacking full-backs Ben Chilwell and Kyle Walker does contain frailties and it is down to Czech Republic to take advantage of them.
Granted, England's defence has improved under Southgate but the selection issues and price here makes this at least worth a small play. If you are not sold on this option though, England to score in both halves at 13/10 is also worth considering.
Goals/Stats: Raheem Sterling to score anytime at 9/5
A man in fine form for his club this season and he has often been criticised for not producing the goods for his country, which could be why he is nearly 2/1 to score anytime. The Man City forward is likely to start in a front three with Harry Kane and Jadon Sancho and he can do his usual trick of sneaking in at the back post with late runs to end the Czechs' recent clean sheet run.
Sterling has been a key player for Man City this term, scoring 19 goals and assisting 16 in 40 appearances, so it is a wonder he has scored just four goals for his country, two against Spain in October, and he can add to this tally on his 48th appearance.
- This will be the third match between England and Czech Republic, with the Three Lions winning one and drawing the other, both friendlies.
- England are unbeaten in their last 18 EURO qualifying matches (W15 D3), winning the last 10 in a row. Their last such defeat came under current QPR manager Steve McClaren in November 2007 versus Croatia.
- England have lost only one of their 15 home games under Gareth Southgate (W10 D4), losing 1-2 versus Spain in the Nations League. Only Roy Hodgson (79.2%), Fabio Capello (76.2%) and Walter Winterbottom (69%) have better home win percentages for England than Southgate (66.7%).
- Czech Republic have won their last two games by a 1-0 scoreline, they last won three consecutive matches without conceding back in October 2007.
- England have lost just two of their last 23 home games in all competitions played in the month of March (W15 D6 L2), losing vs Netherlands in 2016 (1-2) and Italy in 2002 (1-2).
- England’s Harry Kane has scored 15 goals in his last 17 starts for the Three Lions, despite enduring a six-game drought in this run.
- Marcus Rashford has scored three goals in his last six England appearances, as many as he bagged in his previous 25.
- Borussia Dortmund winger Jadon Sancho is the first Englishman to reach 10 assists in Europe’s top five leagues this season.
Odds correct as of 1230 GMT on 21/03/19