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Monday, 21 January, 2019

Abraham can provide the spark England need to succeed

England Under-21s need a victory
1 of 1

European Under-21 Championship Group A
Sky Sports 1, 5pm Monday

England got off to a steady start in the European Under-21 Championship with a 0-0 draw against Sweden, but they need to target victories in their remaining two group matches, starting with their clash against Slovakia in Kielce.

Only the group winners are guaranteed passage to the last four and the Slovaks are in pole position after their impressive come-from-behind 2-1 victory over hosts Poland on Friday.

Another victory for Slovakia would guarantee that they will finish above the Young Lions and it could be enough for qualification if Sweden and Poland share the spoils in Lublin.

Slovakia are appearing at the European Championship finals for just the second time. But they impressed in qualifying, finishing five points ahead of second-placed Holland, and have put together a strong squad featuring 12 players with senior international experience.

They showed great composure and quality against the Poles to recover from the shock of conceding a first-minute goal and they ran out well-deserved winners.

However, Poland do not have a strong record in Under-21 competition and they are competing in their first finals at this level since 1994.

Facing England, who are rated third in the pre-tournament Uefa standings, is a big step up in class and Slovakia might be thinking that a draw would be a good outcome.

For England there should be no confusion. Only a win will keep their fate in their hands and head coach Aidy Boothroyd has urged his side to relax and play with a greater sense of freedom.

They started fairly brightly in the 0-0 draw against Sweden  but become bogged down in the second half and were thankful for goalkeeper Jordan Pickford's 81st-minute penalty from Linus Wahlqvist.

Pickford is one of the best keepers at the tournament and could have a huge role to play if England make it through to the knockout stages.

But to get that far they are going to need more from their outfield players. Offensively, they need a spark from the pacy front three of Jacob Murphy, Nathan Redmond and Tammy Abraham.

Redmond is the top scorer in the squad with nine goals from 35 appearances but often lacks composure in front of goal and netted just seven Premier League goals for Southampton last term despite regularly playing high up the pitch.

The most natural goalscorer for England is Abraham, whose 23 league goals last season were scored in the Sky Bet Championship for Bristol City.

However, he has the instincts and quality to score at a higher level and could be the man to ignite England's campaign.

T Abraham first scorer
1pt 9-2 bet365

Team news
No fresh injuries have been reported since the 2-1 victory over Poland.

Aidy Boothroyd may be contemplating a tactical change to invigorate his side. Demarai Gray looks the most likely to earn a recall after coming on for Jacob Murphy against the Swedes.

Key stat
England have not lost any of their last nine competitive games.

England need a spark from the pacy front three of Jacob Murphy, Nathan Redmond and Tammy Abraham
E.W. Terms
Sky bet