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After a thrilling Under-21 European Championships in Romania and Georgia, England are preparing for their first final since 2009. Lee Carsley’s men have had an excellent tournament and have overcome everything in their way thus far with relative ease. On Saturday evening, they will take on Spain under-21s in a final that many people predicted after the quarter-finals.
Unlike many England teams in the past, Lee Carsley’s team of youngsters have looked completely assured throughout the event in all areas of the pitch. Up top, they have been decisive despite rarely playing with an out-and-out centre forward while at the other end of the pitch, they have been impenetrable with zero goals conceded in five matches.
Although they have beaten some top teams already, including Germany in the group stages, Spain certainly pose their biggest challenge to date. The pre-tournament favourites have been electrifying at times and hit top gear in their semi-final against Ukraine. A 5-1 victory was more than deserved as the likes of Abel Ruiz and Sergio Gomez tore through the Ukrainian defence and England will do well to keep a clean sheet once again on Saturday.
The final is due to kick off at 17:00 UK time and viewers will be able to watch all of the action unfold live on Channel 4 from 16:45.
England under-21 predicted lineup: Aarons and Johnson return from suspension
England boss Lee Carsley hasn’t been afraid to rotate his squad around throughout the tournament which means he has a variety of options available to him going into the final. In the semi-final against Israel, he declined to use a recognised striker from the start and instead went with Emile Smith-Rowe and Anthony Gordon as the two furthest players up the pitch.
Considering England ran out as 3-0 winners, helped by the late introduction of Cameron Archer off the bench, Carsley may well opt to go with the same system.
• Emile Smith Rowe vs Israel – u21 Euros pic.twitter.com/8RWj1enfuI
— ESR Xtra (@XtraESR) June 28, 2023
In terms of players who definitely won’t play, Jacob Ramsey was ruled out for the remainder of the tournament when he was forced off against Portugal in the quarter-finals. The Aston Villa midfielder is widely regarded as England’s best player so will be a big miss against the best team in the tournament but Emile Smith-Rowe performed well as his replacement against Israel.
Although Carsley isn’t able to welcome Ramsey back into his starting eleven, he does have Max Aarons and Ben Johnson back from suspension. Both players missed the match against Israel under-21s and while Aarons is likely to come straight back in for Luke Thomas, Johnson may struggle to dislodge James Garner from the team.
Spain under-21 predicted lineup: Denia to go unchanged
After an impressive tournament, Spain boss Santi Denia will have been delighted to see it all come together in the semi-final thrashing of Ukraine. As a result, it would be a huge surprise if the 49-year-old decided to change things around for the final. His starting eleven came through the match with Ukraine with no injuries which means any changes would be a tactical decision.
Spain are the highest scorers in the competition, a feat they have achieved while having Gabriel Veiga on the substitutes bench throughout the entire tournament. The centre-forward was expected to be a key player at the tournament after netting 11 La Liga goals for Celta Vigo last season but he has played second fiddle to Braga striker, Abel Ruiz, since the first game.
Current top scorers 🧐
— #U21EURO (@UEFAUnder21) July 7, 2023
Given the fact that Ruiz is currently the joint-top scorer at this year’s tournament with three goals, Veiga can’t have too many complaints but he will be ready and waiting on Saturday should his team need a goal at some point the second half.
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