England are optimistic that Manchester United's Chris Smalling and Arsenal's Henri Lansbury will have recovered from a throat infection and an ankle injury respectively to play against the Czech Republic in the decisive final group match at the European Under-21 Championship tonight.
That would give Stuart Pearce a full-strength squad to choose from against powerful opposition. The Czechs were unbeaten in 10 qualifying matches, which included two play-off wins over Greece, who had finished top of England's group.
A 2-0 defeat by Spain on Wednesday may have dented any sense of impregnability, but beating them, as England must, will necessitate an improvement from Pearce's youngsters on their opening two performances here.
"The Czechs certainly got a bit of a runaround by the Spanish, I think, having watched the game," Pearce said. "But they've got three points in the bag, so that puts them in a stronger position in the group than we are at the moment. It just means that we've got to be on the front foot. We feel as though we know there are certain positional situations that we can exploit, so we've worked on that."
The training session in pouring rain took place without Smalling, who has been excellent alongside Phil Jones at centre-half, and Lansbury, who is hoping for a first start after coming on as a substitute in the two previous games.
His introduction would emphasise what a strong cadre of players Pearce has available from United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham as the bigger clubs home in on young English talent.
But Everton's Jack Rodwell must fear for his place, the best midfield balance still not having been found in the opening two draws. Unless it is, England will be flying home tonight.
England (probable, 4-2-3-1): Fielding (Derby); Walker (Tottenham), Smalling, Jones (both Manchester United), Bertrand (Chelsea); Mancienne (Hamburg), Henderson (Liverpool); Sturridge (Chelsea), Lansbury (Arsenal), Sinclair (Swansea); Welbeck (Manchester United).
Czech Republic (probable, 4-1-4-1): Vaclik; Celustka, Suchy, Mazuch, Lecjaks; Gecov; Dockal, Kadlec, Moravek, Hlousek; Pekhart.
Referee: P Tagliavento (Italy)
England U21 v Czech Republic U21 is on Sky Sports 1 tonight, kick-off 7.45pmReuse content