Croatia aim to continue the great run of results as they prepare to officially open stadium ‘Aldo Drosina’ in Pula and keep the momentum going before the Euro 2012 qualifiers resume. Czech Republic had somewhat slow start to their qualifying campaign and they are hoping a good result in Croatia can help them kick-start their campaign.
Luka Modric is out
Having easily qualified to the last few big tournaments, it was a big surprise that Croatia failed to make it to 2010 World Cup in South Africa, but Slaven Bilic’s team are determined not to miss out on another big tournament. The Croats have picked up 10 points from first 4 group games in the Euro 2012 qualifiers, and they are now eager to continue the good run before the game with Georgia in March. The boss has already hinted that he want to win this game, so everything suggests he will field a very strong line-up, albeit without injured Luka Modric.
Mario Mandzukic and Manuel Pamic have withdrawn due to injuries, while Ivan Strinic is a doubt with an ankle injury. Nonetheless, star players Kranjcar, Rakitic, Srna, Eduardo and Petric are all included and thus the Croats can be considered favourites in this clash, especially after winning six out of last seven home games.
Milan Baros misses out
After dominating the European stage during the late ‘90s and at the beginning of new century, Czech Republic have encountered numerous problems after players like Pavel Nedved, Karel Poborski and Jan Koler decided to call it quits, and they are still unable to return to old glory days. The problems on the pitch were followed by clashes among the national team chiefs and incidents involving national team players, so the atmosphere surrounding the team has been pretty poor for a while. As a result, the team started the Euro 2012 campaign with home defeat to Lithuania, although they won the next two games and returned to contention for the top two places. However, looking at the current team sheet, I don’t think they’ve got what it takes to get something from this game.
Thomas Sivok returns to the side and he is set to form a defensive partnership with Roman Hubnik, while Pospech and Kadlec will start on the wings. Milan Baros is out through injury, which means Tomas Necid is likely to start as a lone striker.
Croatia have been in pretty good form lately and they want to keep the momentum going with another home win. Czech Republic are searching for their form, while boss Michal Bilek is still struggling to get the best out of this team, so I believe there is a good value in backing Croatia here.
Our prediction: Home win
Odds: 2.05 (21/20)