Azerbaijan U21 vs England U21 | Euro U21 Match Preview
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Azerbaijan U21 vs England U21 | Euro U21 Match Preview

17/03/24 20:16

England’s U21 side will face a long trip to Baku to take on Azerbaijan in their next Euro U21 qualifying game this week. The Azersun Arena will be the stadium to host a slightly tougher test than what most England fans would expect on paper, and with only top spot securing straight qualification to the main tournament, this tie cannot be underestimated.

The Three Lions’ campaign has been strong so far, but one hiccup against Ukraine back in October could ultimately pay a massive cost. So far, they have seen 3-0 victories against Luxembourg, Serbia and Northern Ireland, as well as an incredible 9-1 home win over Serbia in their first meeting.

England lost 3-2 to Ukraine, a side who top the group currently, achieving 15 from a possible 15 points. In this game, it was England who were dominant, but a 90+4th minute winner from Ilya Kvasnytsya saw the Kosicka Futbalova Arena erupt.

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Azerbaijan have only played four games so far, and are the only side that England have not yet faced in the group. Azerbaijan have proved a tough test for teams in Group F, and a hard defence to break down. Ukraine and Northern Ireland could only squeeze 1-0 victories over them, and Serbia won by a 2-0 scoreline thanks to an early brace from Bologna wonderkid Mihajlo Ilic.

Azerbaijan’s only win in the group came against Luxembourg in Baku, a game which ended in a dramatic 3-2 scoreline. 88 and 91st minute late strikes turned the game on its head and gave Azerbaijan a win that they arguably deserved.

England’s latest Under-21 squad was announced last week, and it makes for a beautiful read. Several names of the highest quality have been included, with some questions over whether some inclusions should have been amongst the squad of the men’s first team.

One of those players is Kobbie Mainoo of Manchester United, who has shone in his starboy season at Old Trafford under Erik Ten Hag, who entrusted the youngster early on in the season when injuries hit and has not looked back. Other names in the England midfield include Carney Chukwuemeka, Harvey Elliott, Archie Gray of Leeds and Alex Scott of Bournemouth.

England U21 and Burnley Number One James Trafford is an obvious choice between the sticks, and his colleagues for this camp are Sam Tickle of Wigan Athletic and Matthew Cox of Bristol Rovers.

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In defence, Liverpool star Jarell Quansah has been called up as well as wonderkids such as Rico Lewis, Teden Mengi and Taylor Harwood-Bellis. In attack, England are absolutely spoiled for choice, Jamie Bynoe-Gittens of Borussia Dortmund is joined by fellow European superstar Sam Iling-Junior of Juventus on the list. Other names include Chelsea’s Noni Madueke, Hull’s Jaden Philogene, who is having an incredible season in the Championship, and Birmingham’s Jay Stansfield.

England do not face Ukraine again until October, so will be hoping for a slip-up from their rivals in their game this camp, strangely, also against Azerbaijan in Baku.

England currently sit top of the “second-placed ranked teams” table, meaning if they aren’t to win the group, they have a chance of qualification in a knock-out round early next year.

Predicted England XI: Trafford; Lewis, Harwood-Bellis, Quansah, Cresswell; Mainoo, Elliott, Scott; Madueke, Philogene, Stansfield.

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