England face the Czech Republic in Prague on Friday night, in the first of two crucial Euro 2020 qualifiers over the weekend. Victory would all but secure their place in next summer’s tournament as England lead Group A after registering four wins from four qualifying games, scoring 19 goals and conceding just four.
They currently sit three-points ahead of second placed Czech Republic, whom they face at the Sinobo Stadium, and a win will almost guarantee they qualify as Group A winners, which means they will be allocated games at Wembley in Euro 2020.
Defeat to the Czech’s will open the door for them to try to claim top spot, but if qualification or winning the group is not confirmed after Friday’s result, then England get the chance to do it again when they travel to Bulgaria on Monday.
When the sides met in the opening game of the qualifying stage at Wembley back in March, England ran out comfortable 5-0 winners to get their campaign off to the perfect start and inflict the Czech’s worst ever international defeat.
Raheem Sterling scored a hat-trick, with goals from Harry Kane and an own goal from Bristol City’s Tomas Kalas adding to the defeat. The Czech’s had tried to frustrate the Three Lions, but England were patient and enjoyed 63% possession. They will look to boss possession again in Prague and probe the Czech back line until that incisive pass can be found to release the likes of Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho.
Since that defeat at Wembley, the Czech Republic have enjoyed two wins on home soil, beating Bulgaria 2-1 and Montenegro 3-0. However, a 2-1 defeat in Kosovo last month has blown qualification wide open. But the Czech’s produced an impressive 3-0 success in Montenegro to remain second in the group, after Kosovo’s 5-3 defeat to England.
A win for England in Prague will see them open-up a six-point lead at the head of Group A, whilst a win for the Czech’s will see them draw level on points with the Three Lions and open an important gap in front of Kosovo.
That 3-0 victory over Montenegro in the Czech Republic’s last home game was their third competitive home win in a row. In fact, the Czech’s have an exceptional home record in Euro Qualifiers, winning 27 of 32 games, with one draw and four defeats. All four losses were by no more than a two-goal margin.
However, the Three Lions opening four wins in this campaign has seen them extend their unbeaten run in tournament qualifiers, including World Cup and Euros, to an impressive 43 games, with 34 wins and nine draws.
Patrik Schick has scored the Czech Republic’s first goal in four of their last six international games. Meanwhile, Raheem Sterling has scored the opening goal in three of England’s last five internationals and has scored six of England’s 19 goals in qualification, a total he shares with Three Lions forward and World Cup Golden Boot winner, Harry Kane.
England have been impressive in qualification again, but that 5-3 victory over Kosovo in Southampton exposed their defensive weaknesses. It is not going to be an easy ride against a nation with such a good home record, and England might have to ride their luck at times. However, they have the better team and if they can click as they have done before, they can run out winners. Kane and Sterling will carry the threat once more.
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