Rose injury leaves Chilwell set for first England start
DANNY Rose joined Alex McCarthy in pulling out of the England squad through injury, meaning Ben Chilwell is in line to make his first senior start tonight’s Nations League clash with Croatia.
Three months after facing one another in the World Cup semi-finals, the Three Lions travel to Rijeka before heading on to an arguably even tougher assignment against Spain.
Southgate will be without Tottenham left-back Rose and Southampton goalkeeper McCarthy for those games after withdrawing from the squad yesterday due to the “minor injuries” they arrived with.
While England still have three others goalkeepers to choose from, it leaves Leicester’s Chilwell as the only leftback in the squad travelling to Croatia.
The 21-year-old got his first chance last month and came off the bench against Switzerland after being called up as a replacement for Manchester United’s Luke Shaw – the same player he replaced in the squad on Sunday.
Brighton’s Lewis Dunk has been the other late call-up following an injury to James Tarkowski of Burnley, but there does not appear to be plans for fresh faces before the Croatia game.
Danny Welbeck, another who had sat out training earlier in the week as a precaution, was also missing again as England trained at St George’s Park yesterday morning.
But the Arsenal forward was set to travel with the squad to Croatia in the afternoon.
The other 22 members of Southgate’s group involved in the session.
Today’s match will be played behind closed doors at Stadion HNK Rijeka as Croatia complete a stadium ban imposed by UEFA for having a swastika on the pitch in a Euro 2016 qualifier against Italy.
England then take on Spain three days later in Seville.
Jordan Pickford insists playing in an empty stadium
were against Croatia will give England the upper hand.
England boss Gareth Southgate has shown his players a video of Barcelona’s recent behind-closed-doors LaLiga game against Las Palmas to help their preparation, and Pickford believes the visitors could gain the edge from the empty Stadion HNK Rejika.
“It is going to be very different,” the Three Lions goalkeeper said. “I played in Croatia last year for Everton (in the Europa League) and I know how hostile their fans are.
“They are great for their teams so I think it gives us the upper hand going away from home and when they need their fans, they haven’t got them.”
Pickford was one of many players to star for England in the World Cup before they suffered semi-final heartbreak at the hands of Croatia.
The 24-year-old admits there is a hint of a revenge mission about the upcoming rematch – even if he concedes Croatia can always boast about winning that World Cup semi-final.
“It would be nice to get one over them.
“But they will always have (the ability to say) that they beat us in the semi-final,” he said.
“It is another season, another campaign with England and we want to be beating the top teams and they are ranked in the top 10 as well as Spain (who England play on Monday) and we want to be pushing ourselves to beat these teams as part of our progression.
“As a team we have got to take ourselves to the next step and progress even more as a group of players, as staff, and for England to go further. This is the start of something new.”
Ben Chilwell, right, trains with England prior to the squad’s departure for Croatia