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England vs Croatia: Three Lions to play in empty stadium

12 October 2018

Gareth Southgate will gauge the evolution of his team since the summer tournament at an empty Stadion HNK Rijeka on Friday with Uefa having barred supporters from the fixture after a swastika was marked on their pitch before a Euro 2016 qualifier against Italy.

"We'll see if England are better than they were in the World Cup, they have a lot of the same players but also some new ones and some injuries".

Southgate's squad has a youthful look with the inclusion of teenagers such as Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho and Chelsea's Mason Mount, who is on loan at Derby County, plus Leicester City's 21-year-midfielder James Maddison.

Mario Mandzukic, who beat Stones to the ball to score the extra-time semi-final goal to break English hearts, will not be in the Croatia team, having retired from worldwide football, but there will be plenty of familiar faces: from Dejan Lovren to Luka Modric. "It was such a big occasion for us as players and the nation, and so hard to take".

"We felt they disrespected Croatia".

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"It's not experimentation, it's players we believe in". But, as a team, we are looking to how we improve and bring younger players into the system.

"It will be a odd experience".

"I would agree with Luka that we felt a little underestimated by the English media, not the head coach or the players", he said.

"But for a match situation, in an global, very different". For them, not to have the encouragement of what is an incredibly passionate support will be very different for them.

"Tomorrow is an important game, especially after the game against Spain".

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Croatia finished as World Cup runners-up after losing the final to France and Southgate is expecting another stern examination from Zlatko Dalic's team.

Croatia's starting XI: Livakovic, Jedvaj, Lovren, Vida, Pivaric, Rakitic, Kovacic, Kramaric, Modric, Perisic, Rebic.

'They've expressed themselves and I think that's a great environment that we've set, a welcoming environment.

"So, it's a really good test for us".

He said: "We're here to get a result".

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England vs Croatia: Three Lions to play in empty stadium