Sunday 22 September 2019

Dalic to quiz Lovren over Ramos boast

Dejan Lovren has reopened his feud with Sergio Ramos, who stands accused, in some quarters, of injuring Mohamed Salah in the Champions League final. Photo: Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images
Dejan Lovren has reopened his feud with Sergio Ramos, who stands accused, in some quarters, of injuring Mohamed Salah in the Champions League final. Photo: Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images

Ed Aarons

The Croatia coach, Zlatko Dalic, has said he will speak to Dejan Lovren after the Liverpool defender appeared to brag on social media about deliberately elbowing Sergio Ramos during the victory over Spain on Thursday.

Lovren, who is expected to start against England today in the winner-takes-all Nations League showdown at Wembley, had previously accused Spain of showing a lack of respect during their 6-0 victory over the World Cup finalists in September, before being captured on an Instagram live video apparently stating he "elbowed him good" in reference to the Real Madrid defender.

Ramos escaped punishment after seeming to injure Mohamed Salah during the Champions League final and has since been the subject of a long-running feud with Lovren, who also posted a picture of him beating the Spain captain to a header with the message "good morning Croatia" on Friday.

With Dalic's side guaranteed to top Group 4 and progress to the semi-finals of the Nations League if they win at Wembley, the coach admitted he would discuss the issue with Lovren but stopped short of condemning the 29-year-old's actions. "I will talk personally with Dejan but that will remain between us and the squad," he said. "I don't want to talk publicly about it."

Lovren's Liverpool team-mate Virgil van Dijk also added his voice to the debate when he said Ramos is "not my type of central defender".

Having recovered from that opening thrashing in Elche, Croatia's superb 3-2 win in Zagreb was confirmation they are still more than a match for the best after their run to the World Cup final. Eight of the side that started against France in Moscow began the game on Thursday and, even in the absence of the injured Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic, Dalic is expected to name another experienced line-up to face Gareth Southgate's youthful England despite concerns over fatigue.

"They are very strong with young players who are very quick but I'm more worried about our team because we played against Spain and, yes, we are probably tired," he said.

"Maybe the time of the kick-off isn't the best for us but what can we do? We will try to play our best and make a spectacular game. Even a draw would be something fantastic."

That scenario would leave Spain as group winners but, depending on the scoreline, would mean relegation for either England or Croatia.

A 0-0 draw would secure second place for Southgate's side, although a score draw would mean they finish bottom of the group - a result that would round off a memorable year for Dalic's team.

"It will be our third match in three or four months and both teams know each other," he said. "There is going to be rivalry on the pitch but it will be in a sporting atmosphere. We beat them in the World Cup semi-final and nobody can forget that. For sure that will be the most important result from these three matches."

Croatia will be wary of the threat posed by Raheem Sterling after the Manchester City forward ended his 27-game wait for an England goal, against Spain, even if Dalic admitted they are likely to adopt a similar game-plan to the one that served them so well at the Luzhniki Stadium four months ago.

"We know what we have to do," he said. "It is not only Raheem - they have loads of really fast players and on the counter-attack they are really dangerous. We need to be careful with Raheem, especially as Wembley is a very large pitch.

"We saw in Spain the goalkeeper likes to play long passes, especially the one for Sterling," Dalic added. "We need to press them all over the pitch so it will be difficult for them. But [Jordan] Pickford is probably the best goalkeeper in the world with the long passes that is a great second option."


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