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England will deliver in empty stadium: Pickford

Croatia v England, Nations League, Stadion Rujevica, Tonight, 7.45pm

Jordan Pickford insists playing in an empty stadium against Croatia will give England the upper hand in their Nations League clash tonight.

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 against Italy.

England boss Gareth Southgate has shown his players a video of Barcelona's recent behind-closed-doors La Liga 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 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 and staff and for England to go further this is the start of something new."

Danny Rose joined Alex McCarthy in pulling out of the England squad through injury, meaning Leicester's Ben Chilwell is in line to make his first senior start.

The 21-year-old got his first chance with the national side last month and came off the bench against Switzerland.

Belfast Telegraph