1998 World Cup semifinalists Croatia will look to maintain their impressive home record when they host England at the Makismir stadium in Zagreb on Wednesday.
Slaven Bilic’s team are on a high after thrashing whipping boys Andorra 7-0 on Saturday. The game saw Basel striker Mladen Petric slam in 4 as the Croats equalled their largest margin of victory ever. The win was accomplished without the likes of Milan Rapaic, Darijo Srna and Ivica Olic, and this fact will add to their confidence. Croatia have 4 points from 2 games and are third in Group E, behind England and Israel who are tied on 7 from 4. Juventus full back Igor Tudor is out with injury though. Bilic is somebody who knows English football too, as he has played with the likes of Frank Lampard when he was at West Ham.
England are expected to shift to a 3-5-2 formation after a frustrating goalless draw against Macedonia on Saturday. Steven Gerrard is suspended for this tie, and Ledley King has been withdrawn from the squad due to knee injury. With Hargreaves, Lennon and Joe Cole already missing, Gerrard ‘s absence could prove crucial. Newcastle skipper Scott Parker should replace Gerrard . Disappointing midfield duo Frank Lampard and Michael Carrick are expected to retain their places in the centre of the park. Lampard will win his 50th cap if he plays and the Chelsea medio will desperately be looking to return to goalscoring form . Ashley Cole and Gary Neville are expected to play as wingbacks. Jamie Carragher is expected to come in with Stewart Downing likely to sit out. Paul Robinson has kept a clean sheet in the last 6 games, and he will equal Gordon Banks’ record of 7 if England do not concede.
Croatia are strong at home and will be keen to keep it up. England meanwhile, will want to respond to their critics with a thumping win. I predict a draw even though England are the stronger team on paper a 0-0 or a 1-1 maybe.