Grealish told to play in top flight

England manager Gareth Southgate has told Jack Grealish that he may not get a chance at international level unless he plays regularly in the Premier League.

The Aston Villa midfielder has seven caps for England at under-21 level but has not yet received a call-up for the senior squad.

He last played in the top flight for Villa in 2016 but they have failed to win promotion since, losing in the Championship play-off final last season.

Grealish was then linked with a move away from Villa Park, Tottenham making bids that were rejected in the summer. The midfielder then pledged his future to Villa, signing a new five-year contract.

However, Southgate says that, if he is to achieve his international ambitions, Grealish will have to either get promoted with Villa or seek a move to a Premier League club.

The England boss said: "Although we can see the quality, when the evidence of the opponent is a different level, that's where it's hard to directly correlate what that's going to look like at a level above.

"With Callum [Hudson-Odoi], he's playing Europa League, he's playing Premier League – that does make a difference."

Southgate added that, as an ex-Villa player himself, he hoped to see Grealish and the club back in the top flight before too long.

Meanwhile Southgate is preparing his side to face Montenegro away in the Euro 2020 qualifiers on Monday night.

His side top Group A after starting their campaign with a 5-0 win at home to the Czech Republic on Friday, Raheem Sterling scoring a hat-trick.

They are 1/3 for the win on Monday with Montenegro 10/1 and the draw 7/2.

Sterling is 15/8 to score at any time on Monday while England are 7/1 to win the game 3-0.

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Dier to miss Montenegro clash

Midfielder Eric Dier will be absent when England face Montenegro in a European Championship qualifier on Monday, having suffered a leg injury against the Czech Republic.

The Tottenham Hotspur man had to be replaced after just 17 minutes of the 5-0 victory at Wembley on Friday evening and his injury is serious enough to mean he will miss the action in Podgorica on Monday.

Three Lions head coach Gareth Southgate said after a comprehensive victory: "I think he will go back to his club. Hopefully not too serious, bit of a muscular injury, but he won't be right for our second game.

"If Eric is the only injury, I don't think we'll call anyone else in. If we have any other concerns we'll have to review that on Saturday."

Meanwhile, Southgate was keen to stress that there are improvements still to be made by his side, despite them making a near perfect start to their qualifying campaign for Euro 2020.

He added: "I thought we were a little slow at the start to move the ball, and there was a period at the beginning of the second half where we lost a bit of tactical discipline and conceded chances that on another night would be punished.

"I'm nit-picking, but I think we can get better and I think we've got to keep doing that because these guys have got the potential to play at an even higher level."

England are priced at 8/15 to win in Montenegro on Monday, with the draw priced at 3/1 and a 1-1 final score available at 7/1.

Two previous meetings of the two sides in the Balkans have both ended in draws – 1-1 in March 2013 and 2-2 in October of 2011.

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Euro 2020: Super Sterling as five-star England crush Czechs

England 5-0 Czech Republic

The start of the latest adventure for England and, if this is a sign of things to come, what an adventure it could be.

Euro 2020 qualifying began with a comprehensive showing even us fans with an ardent England leaning may not have foreseen.

Much of the Euro 2020 qualifying news before kick-off surrounded injuries in the England camp – Marcus Rashford the latest to join a line of players withdrawing from the squad including Luke Shaw, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Fabian Delph, Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

Yet it wasn’t a problem as players in white shirts stepped up to the mark to make England’s Euro 2020 qualifying betting odds extremely attractive.

Highlights of the game

One man led from the front – Man City frontman Raheem Sterling.

It took 24 minutes from him to break the deadlock at Wembley but once he did and captain Harry Kane netted from the penalty spot just before the break, the floodgates were open.

Kane had fed exciting young talent Jadon Sancho and he played an inviting ball into the path of Sterling who could not miss.

A minute before half-time Sterling went down in the box surrounded by two defenders.

In truth, it was a soft penalty but Kane didn’t need asking twice, clinically converting (despite the efforts of the unfortunate Czech goalkeeper Jiri Pavlenka) to give England the lead their play merited.

England actually began the second half complacently but, against limited opposition, they made the game safe just beyond the hour mark.

A Kyle Walker pass took a deflection right into the path of Sterling who still had plenty to do but held off his marker and turned before confidently despatching number three.

It was number three for him soon afterwards with a shot which deflected in to complete his hat-trick – his final touch before being substituted to much acclaim.

A fine night for England and a miserable one for the visitors was complete six minutes from time when substitute debutant Callum Hudson-Odoi’s shot was palmed away by Pavlenka only to hit luckless defender Tomas Kalas and rebound into the net.

A performance littered with style and swagger, the only downside for the home side was an early injury to midfielder Eric Dier.

With a hectic month approaching, Spurs will hope it is not serious.

Arsenal 1X2 1.38 Newcastle Asian Handicap +0.50 @ 1.98 Over 3.00 @ 2.16CLICK HEREDisclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.Premier League

 

Key statistics

This was the first England hat-trick at Wembley since 2010 when Jermain Defoe netted a treble against Bulgaria.

Despite being yet to start a Premier League match for his club, Hudson-Odoi is the youngest player in the history of the England national team to win his first cap in a competitive match (18 years 135 days), breaking the record set by the great Duncan Edwards in April 1955.

England last hit five at home in a success against San Marino in October 2014.

Kane has scored 15 goals in his last 17 starts for the Three Lions, despite enduring a six-game drought in this run. He has also scored six penalties in a row.

Borussia Dortmund winger Sancho was the first Englishman to reach 10 assists in Europe’s top five leagues this season.

Sancho is the third youngest England player to start a competitive international at Wembley, behind Edwards (18 years 183 days) in 1955 and Michael Owen (18 years 300 days) in 1998.

This was the fourth match between England and Czech Republic and the Three Lions remain unbeaten with two victories and two draws.

England are unbeaten in their last 19 Euro qualifying matches (won 16, drawn three), winning the last 11 in a row. Their last such defeat came in November 2007 versus Croatia.

England have lost only one of their 16 home games under coach Gareth Southgate (won 11, drawn four), losing 2-1 against 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%).

England have lost just two of their last 24 home games in all competitions played in the month of March (won 16, drawn six, lost two), losing v Holland in 2016 (2-1) and Italy in 2002 (2-1).

Top of Form

Top of Form

What’s next?

The Three Lions aim to create momentum as they face Montenegro in Euro 2020 matchday 2

England team celebrates after beating Czech Republic

England now travel to Montenegro for their second qualifier on Monday (March 25).

Then it’s the excitement of a Nations League semi-final against Holland in June and, possibly, a place in the final against reigning European champions Portugal or Switzerland.

Qualifying continues in September with home matches against Bulgaria and Kosovo.

The Czechs have a high-profile friendly coming up next week against the Samba boys of Brazil (March 26).

Qualifying resumes in June for them, also with home games against Bulgaria (June 7) and Montenegro (June 10).

 

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Pickford content with his form

England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has played down criticism of some of his recent club performances as he prepares to face the Czech Republic at Wembley.

The Everton gloveman has been under fire for a number of errors in recent outings for the Toffees, but a bullish Pickford believes his form has been decent, aside from a below-par display in the 3-2 loss at Newcastle United.

He told Radio 5 Live: "I know I made an error against Newcastle and a couple of errors before that.

"You know yourself if you are doing well and I think my form shouldn't be getting questioned. Apart from the Newcastle game I've been on a good run.

"In the Newcastle game, I made a mistake and bounced back with a good performance against Chelsea, so that shows my mentality and my character in myself, and I think that's been good for me.

"The manager has put faith in me to start and I've been training well all week as well, so that's good."

Pickford has been given the nod ahead of Tom Heaton and Jack Butland for the opening European Championship qualifier on Friday evening, with the Three Lions hoping to maintain the form which has seen them reach the World Cup semi-finals and do likewise in the Nations League.

Meanwhile, Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford will miss the action at Wembley and the following qualifier in Montenegro on Monday due to an ankle problem.

England can be backed at 3/10 to defeat the Czech Republic, while they are 8/13 to keep a clean sheet, with Gareth Southgate's side 7/1 to triumph at Euro 2020.

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Rashford sits out England training

Marcus Rashford may miss Friday's Euro 2020 qualifier between England and Czech Republic after being forced to sit out training on Thursday.

The Manchester United striker is struggling with an ankle injury.

England's official Twitter account posted: "21 players are taking part in today's session, with Marcus Rashford working separately to the main group."

England boss Gareth Southgate has seen five players withdraw from his squad for the Group A double-header against the Czechs and Montenegro.

Liverpool full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold pulled out because of a back complaint on Wednesday after Fabian Delph, John Stones, Luke Shaw and Ruben Loftus-Cheek were ruled out earlier in the week.

Because of the withdrawals, Southgate has already added Callum Hudson-Odoi and James Ward-Prowse to his squad.

Meanwhile, Burnley goalkeeper Tom Heaton is thrilled to be back in the England set-up after injury ruled out him out of World Cup 2018.

He said: "You have certainly got to appreciate it. I've found that myself coming back after being out for so long. To get back in the [Burnley] team and be back here, it's sort of a nice end to a difficult journey, really.

"It was tough. You get injured. It was a longer-term injury, I probably didn't know the details of it at the time and didn't realise the scale of it, to be honest.

"The first part of it is OK, you get your rehabilitation in. Towards the end when your mind thinks that you're ready but physically you're not quite there, that can be a touch frustrating. It's difficult but you put the work in, the graft, the opportunity comes and thankfully I'm back here today."

England, 7/1 to win Euro 2020, are 8/1 to beat Czech Republic from behind on Friday while Southgate's team are available at 4/7 to keep a clean sheet in the match.

Euro 2020: England Embark on Next Adventure

England vs Czech Republic

These are exciting times to be an England supporter.

Personally, for all the razzamatazz and rhetoric that we constantly hear about the current set-up, I believe the nation is no closer now than it has been in any of the past 20 years from challenging for a major tournament.

But forget my cynicism, us fans.

As the race for Euro 2020 begins in earnest, backers of the Three Lions have every reason to be optimistic.

Talking Points

First, came the run to the World Cup semi-finals last summer and a feel-good factor which embraced much of the country.

Then came the qualification to the semi-finals of the UEFA Nations League in a group which also comprised World Cup runners-up Croatia and Spain.

More still, the development of the national game at many levels has not gone unnoticed by even the most successful of rivals.

So, qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Montenegro should be overcome and produce some Euro 2020 qualifying highlights, right?

There may be a fresh look to some of the team, particularly with a number of players already withdrawing due to injury.

Manager Gareth Southgate is considering pairing Everton’s Michael Keane with Harry Maguire at the heart of England’s defence, in the absence of the injured John Stones, and held one-on-one meetings with his players at St George’s Park earlier this week.

They will be led by their talisman, skipper Harry Kane, who has trained with the squad along with the uncapped Declan Rice and Callum Hudson-Odoi, himself called up despite yet to start a Premier League match for Chelsea.

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Alongside Kane, there may also be changes.

Marcus Rashford has a slight ankle problem, rendering him a doubt at a sold-out Wembley. The Manchester United forward has been troubled by the issue for almost a month, with Borussia Dortmund’s high-flying Jadon Sancho and Hudson-Odoi being potential replacements.

Even if England fail to top Group A, which also includes Bulgaria and Kosovo, they are guaranteed a qualifying play-off place after winning their group in the Nations League.

Kane has admitted this week he has his sights set on silverware.

2018 was a great year for the Spurs frontman, winning the Golden Boot in Russia, an achievement that will stay with him forever. But he craves a major team trophy, and the Nations League finals this summer gives him a fresh chance of that.

Beat Holland and then Portugal or Switzerland, and Kane will be lifting the trophy, giving him something he has not yet tasted in his career.

That is one goal, another is Euro 2020.

The road to that major tournament starts at Wembley on Friday night.

Exciting times indeed.

England will feature youngster Jadon Sancho in Euro 2020 qualifying match versus Czech Republic

Jadon Sancho in training ahead of England’s Euro 2020 qualifying match against Czech Republic

History

Since Czechoslovakia became the Czech Republic, these nations have only met twice, both in international friendlies.

In 1998, Darren Anderton and Paul Merson goals gave the Three Lions a 2-0 success at Wembley.

Ten years later, another friendly finished 2-2 with Wes Brown and Joe Cole on target in what proved to be Glenn Hoddle’s final match in charge of the national team.

During 12 meetings between the former Czechoslovakia and England, there have been three draws, seven England successes and two Czechoslovakia victories.

One of those was in qualifying for the European Championships of 1976 when a Mick Channon goal was cancelled out by Zdenek Nehoda and Dusan Gallis.

The central European nation qualified for the tournament at England’s expense and went onto their greatest ever football triumph – defeating West Germany in the final (in a penalty shoot-out after a 2-2 draw) to be crowned European champions.

Betting Tip

??
England vs Czech Republic England Asian Handicap -1.75 @ 2.35
March 23, 03:45 (GMT+8)

England are firm favourites against a Czech side which didn’t reach last summer’s World Cup in Russia and was unable to progress out of the group stage at Euro 2016.

You can get 1X2 odds on the home side @ 1.29 with the visitors out @ 9.75. The draw is available @ 4.90.

If you see a shock on the cards, how about Asian Handicap Czech Republic + 1.25 @ 2.33, or even double chance – Czech Republic or draw — @ 3.30.

Goals are expected and there are various Euro 2020 qualifying betting odds to consider.

Total goal 0-1 @ 2.96, total goal 2-3 @ 1.87, total goal 4-6 @ 3.50 and over 2.75 goals @ 2.33.

A repeat of the score from their last meeting just over a decade ago – correct score 2-2 – is a tempting 48.00 for some.

England have so often flattered to deceive, why will this time be any different?

A SHORT EXPLANATION ON HOW OUR (??) BETS ARE WORTH:
?? = €20 (Highly confident) ?? = €10 (CONFIDENT) ?? = €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

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Reds sweating over Alexander-Arnold

Liverpool are hoping the will have Trent Alexander-Arnold available for the resumption of the Premier League title race after the defender was forced to withdraw from the England squad.

The talented 20-year-old has been struggling with a back problem and was forced to pull out of the Three Lions squad and will miss upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Montenegro.

England boss Gareth Southgate, who helped the national side reach the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, has taken the decision not to call up a replacement for Alexander-Arnold, who will now continue his recovery back at Liverpool.

Reds manager Jurgen Klopp will be hoping Alexander-Arnold will be back in time for his side's crucial Premier League encounter with Tottenham on 31st March.

Liverpool currently find themselves at the top of the table with two points between themselves and Manchester City, who have a game in hand over the Merseyside outfit.

The Reds, who managed to edge past Fulham 2-1 in their last league outing, are 3/5 to win, 14/5 to draw and 19/4 to lose to Mauricio Pochettino's Spurs side at Anfield later this month.

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Heaton heaps praise on Pickford

Goalkeeper Tom Heaton has heaped praise of England colleague Jordan Pickford, who is the current first choice for the national team under Gareth Southgate.

Heaton missed the World Cup finals last summer because of a serious shoulder injury, but he has been handed a recall for the upcoming European Championship qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Montenegro after regaining his starting spot with Burnley.

However, the 32-year-old is aware that Pickford is the man in possession, with Heaton eager to focus on his own form and not worry about trying to displace the Everton gloveman.

He told reporters: "I think he's been outstanding wearing the England shirt. I thought he was incredible in the summer in the World Cup.

"I think his performances were really top-drawer and it's never an easy thing to do, putting the England goalkeeper jersey on, and I think he did it superbly well.

"Jordan's performances have been outstanding for England and that's where it's at. I try not to look at anyone else, as ever the thinking is on myself and we'll see what happens.

"We're here, we compete for the place. Of course, everyone wants to play. Try and get your things right and see what the manager decides."

England face the Czechs at Wembley on Friday evening, with the two teams having drawn 2-2 the last time they met, back in August 2008 – also at Wembley.

The Three Lions are 2/7 to win the game on Friday and are 4/1 to do so by a 2-0 scoreline, with the hosts 4/7 to keep a clean sheet.

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Kane focused on silverware

Skipper Harry Kane believes if England win the Nations League in the summer it will be a greater achievement than reaching the World Cup semi-finals last year.

The Three Lions reached the last four of the Nations League by topping a group which also included Spain and Croatia, with England drawn to face the Netherlands in the semi-finals.

First up is the small matter of getting their European Championship qualifying campaign under way against the Czech Republic and Montenegro, but Kane is already looking forward to the challenge ahead in the summer.

He told reporters: "To have a chance to win a trophy in an England shirt does not happen not very often. If we win that trophy, in my eyes, it's a better year than 2018.

"Hopefully, we can win some silverware. Of course, 2018 was fantastic but for me, the main thing is the team and we want to win things.

"People now expect us to do well and before the World Cup there was no expectation, so it's great that we've turned that around.

"We're the only team from the World Cup semi-finals to have got through their Nations League group.

"That was big for us, to prove that it wasn't just a one-off – that this team were really building for something special."

England can be backed at 7/4 to win the inaugural Nations League, with the Netherlands priced at 3/1 and Portugal 2/1.

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Hudson-Odoi handed England call

Callum Hudson-Odoi said it is a "dream come true" after being called up to the senior England squad for the first time.

The 18-year-old Chelsea forward only received his first call-up to the England Under-21s squad last week, but was drafted into Gareth Southgate's squad on Monday evening after Luke Shaw, John Stones, Fabian Delph and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have all withdrawn because of injury.

Hudson-Odoi has yet to start a Premier League game for Chelsea, although he has managed to score five goals in 19 appearances so far this season.

He will now look to pick up his first England cap in the Euro 2020 qualifiers against the Czech Republic at Wembley and away in Montenegro on Friday and next Monday respectively.

Speaking about when Under-21s coach Aidy Boothroyd broke the news that he was linking up with the senior squad, Hudson-Odoi said: "It's been a crazy experience but I'm delighted. I thought the manager was joking."

He added: "I was shocked and then when I heard that I actually had to go over, I couldn't believe it.

"I was delighted. It's a dream come true. Now I've got to work hard, enjoy every moment and keep working to just hopefully make an impact when I get the opportunity."

England are 2/7 to defeat the Czech Republic on Friday, while their opponents are 7/4 to come out on top and the draw is priced at 12/5.

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