Wales travel to Croatia as they look to back-up their winning start to their UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.
Gradski Vrt, Osijek, Croatia (Hrvatska)
Key Stat: Croatia have never lost to Wales, winning three and drawing one of their four previous matches.
Expert Verdict: Wales beat Slovakia to make a winning start to their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign but Croatia have already suffered one setback - losing to Hungary. The World Cup runners-up can not afford another defeat but will expect to win on home soil.
Mijo Caktas could be in line for an international debut in a midfield missing injured Barcelona man Ivan Rakitic. Croatia have suffered a number of injuries ahead of this fixture, with Rakitic among several withdrawals. Fellow midfielders Marko Rog, Filip Bradaric and Nikola Vlasic have also dropped out, as has forward Ante Rebic. Sime Vrsaljko, Josip Pivaric and Matej Mitrovic were already unavailable.
Luka Modric – The Ballon d’Or winner and hero of their World Cup run remains in the squad and will look to add to his record of 14 goals in 120 appearances.
Andrej Kramaric – Scored in the win against Azerbaijan and defeat to England and now has 13 goals in 44 international caps.
Ivan Perisic – The Inter winger is the top scorer in the current Croatian squad, having scored 22 international goals and played a key role in their run to last summer’s World Cup final.
Croatia have lost their last two away matches 2-1, against England in the UEFA Nations League despite Andrej Kramaric giving them the lead, and in Hungary in Euro 2020 qualifying after Ante Rebic’s opener. In between, however, they came from behind themselves to beat Azerbaijan – Borna Barisic and Kramaric scoring the goals in a 2-1 victory.
Defenders:Tin Jedvaj, Dejan Lovren, Domagoj Vida, Borna Barisic
Defensive Midfielders:Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic
Attacking Midfielders:Ivan Perisic, Marcelo Brozovic, Josip Brekalo
After missing the end of the season, midfielder Aaron Ramsey is also unavailable for Wales too. Youngster Dylan Levitt is in the squad – one of four uncapped players called up by Ryan Giggs – but the Manchester United teenager is unlikely to play.
Gareth Bale – Scored when these teams last met and, after a frustrating end to his season with Real Madrid, Wales’ all-time top goalscorer will have a point to prove.
Harry Wilson – The Liverpool loanee made a big impression with Derby this season, scoring some spectacular long-range goals.
Daniel James – The match-winner against Slovakia is said to be attracting interest from the likes of Manchester United.
After two defeats in November, including in the UEFA Nations League home match with Denmark, Wales bounced back with two wins in March. The first, in a friendly at Wrexham against Trinidad & Tobago, saw Ben Woodburn snatch a stoppage-time winner in a 1-0 Welsh victory. Daniel James then scored the only goal in Wales’ 1-0 win against Slovakia in their opening Euro 2020 qualifier.
Defenders:Connor Roberts, Chris Mepham, James Lawrence, Ben Davies
Defensive Midfielders:Harry Wilson, Joe Allen, Matt Smith, Daniel James
Attacking Midfielders:David Brooks
Croatia have met four times in total, winning three and drawing the other. Their most recent meetings were in World Cup qualifying in 2012/13. In Osijek, Mario Mandzukic and Eduardo scored in a 2-0 Croatia win, while Eduardo scored the winner in Swansea after Dejan Lovren cancelled out Gareth Bale’s opener.
World Cup runners-up Croatia have been hit and miss since their incredible run to the final in Russia, as proved by their start to this qualifying campaign.
Defeat in Hungary was an early setback and they need to bounce back quickly – three points at home to Wales is a must in that regard.
They will have to do so without some notable players, however, including Ante Rebic and Ivan Rakitic. Even with the post-World Cup retirements they have had to contend with, however, they still have good strength in depth.
Andrej Kramaric has been in good goalscoring form lately, while Luka Modric remains the heartbeat of this team.
Modric comes into this game off the back of a frustrating season, as does Gareth Bale for Wales. Both Real Madrid men will want to do more this time out.
Wales need Bale firing but their young squad have managed a couple of wins in their last two matches anyway with a couple od rising stars on target.
They lack consistency, however, and have come up short against the top nations – defeats in the UEFA Nations League to Denmark prove that.
Croatia are another in that bracket, and realistically the World Cup runners-up should be recording all three points against Ryan Giggs’ side.
Croatia are favourites to win at home to Wales, at 4/7 with Bet365, Betfair and Betway.
Wales have struggled for goals at times in these fixtures, and a Croatia win to nil returns 13/10 with Bet365 and Ladbrokes.
You can also bet against both teams to score at 8/13 with Bet365. Wales do not concede many either, however, and under 2.5 goals will fetch 4/6 with 888sport.
Andrej Kramaric has scored in two of Croatia’s last three matches and he is 2/1 with both Betfair and Paddy Power to score at any time for the hosts.
Croatia need three points at home to Wales but their strength in depth will serve them well. They have the quality to earn a vital win.