England return to action on Friday night as Gareth Southgate’s side take on the Czech Republic in their opening Euro 2020 qualifier at Wembley.
After a positive 2018 saw the Three Lions reach the World Cup semi-final and qualify for the finals of the inaugural Nations League, they will want to start this year in style.
Here, we take a look at some of the key talking points ahead of just the third meeting between the two nations.
Rice is right
All eyes will be on Declan Rice if the 20-year-old West Ham midfielder makes his England debut on Friday night.
Having been capped three times by the Republic of Ireland, Rice opted to turn out for the Three Lions and was called up by Southgate at the first opportunity following FIFA’s ratification of the request.
If Rice is now trusted to start against the Czech Republic and earn his maiden cap, the expectation will be bigger than that which most young debutants carry heading into their first senior international.
The Czech Republic are planning to target Harry Maguire, the weak link in the England side according to Burnley striker Matej Vydra.
He claimed the Clarets worked out Maguire’s problems ahead of the Premier League clash with Leicester at the weekend, where the defender was sent off inside five minutes.
“We talked about him at Burnley before we played against Leicester. In some moments it seems he doesn’t know what’s happening behind him,” Vydra said.
Maguire will want to show he is capable of dealing with the pressure and he will have to be at his World Cup best to prove the visitors wrong.
The suggestion of a new manager ‘bounce’ leading to an upturn in results was borne out for the Czech Republic towards the end of 2018.
Jaroslav Silhavy – who had won the domestic title with Slovan Liberec and Slavia Prague – replaced Karel Jarolim after a period of poor form.
The 57-year-old has since overseen three victories from his four games in charge, securing two wins over neighbours Slovakia in the Nations League as well as a friendly success against Poland.
Is Jordan still first Pick?
After his penalty heroics at the World Cup it seems strange to question Jordan Pickford’s position as Southgate’s first-choice goalkeeper.
However, the Everton stopper has had a few shaky moments this season, especially in the recent defeat at Newcastle.
Pickford’s place as England’s number one will also come under more pressure as in-form Burnley goalkeeper Tom Heaton has returned to the squad.
Southgate certainly has a decision to make as to who will don the gloves against the Czech Republic, with Pickford arguably still just at the top of the pecking order.
The kids are alright
As Southgate’s squad continues to evolve, the chances for young English talent continue to grow.
Jadon Sancho, enjoying a superb season in the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund at the age of 18, will be pushing to start against either the Czech Republic or Monday’s clash in Montenegro.
Rice, too, is included as is Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi. Like Sancho he is only 18 and, without a Premier League start to his name, Southgate has shown faith to call up the forward in place of the injured Luke Shaw.
The recalled Heaton is the only member of the current squad born in the 1980s but it could soon be those born after the millennium who are making the biggest impact.News Now - Sport News