Empty stadium plays into England’s hands, says Pickford
Hosts have been sanctioned by UEFA.
Jordan Pickford insists playing in an empty stadium against Croatia will give England the upper hand in their Nations League clash on Friday.
The teams meet just 93 days on from a World Cup semi-final which Croatia won 2-1 in extra-time.
But, unlike that night in front of 78,000 fans at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, there will be eerie silence this time around.
Croatia have been forced to play the game behind closed doors, the second and final match of a UEFA sanction after a swastika was imprinted on the pitch ahead of a Euro 2016 qualifying match
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.”