England U21s face Slovakia in Kielce on Monday evening in a European Championship match their manager Aidy Boothroyd has billed as “must-win”.
The Young Lions drew and defeat would leave their Group A qualification hopes hanging by a thread with leaders Slovakia having already beaten hosts Poland 2-1.
Only the group winners and best runner-up from the three pools go through to the semi-finals and Boothroyd knows England cannot afford to let Slovakia get out of sight.
He said: “It’s knockout football now without a doubt. We’ve got to win and then win and win the next one after that. But we have to beat the Slovakians first.
“They have had a brilliant start. They’re a very good team and I’ve been really impressed with them. Their game with Poland was probably better to watch than our game with Sweden and it will be difficult. We totally respect the result they got.
“We have to go full pelt for every game but at the same time because of the squad that we’ve got, I’ve got to think about using everyone that’s in it.
“But we have to win so I’ve got to pick the best team, even if some of them might be a bit tired they might have to play a smaller part in the game and think about what goes on in the last half hour of the game.”
Senior boss Gareth Southgate, assistant Steve Holland and technical director Dan Ashworth are all in Kielce after arriving for the Sweden game on Friday.
Southgate watched training on Sunday and Boothroyd believes it shows the players there is an opportunity to step up to the senior side.
“It’s really helpful having them here. It’s great that Gareth, Steve and Dan are here because it shows players there is a pathway for them,” he said.
“And if the senior manager can take time out of his busy schedule to come to watch us then it gives the players a boost. Gareth’s been very positive. We are very close anyway.
“It’s great, if I have any questions about players Gareth can be my sounding board because he knows them all so well and was with them in Toulon.”
Boothroyd is set to tinker with his tactics after his team managed only one shot on target in Friday’s draw with Sweden.
Leicester’s Demarai Gray, who came off the bench in that game, is expected to replace Jacob Murphy of Norwich City in England’s attack.
Southampton’s Matt Targett could also come in for Ben Chilwell after the Leicester City defender conceded a late penalty against Sweden, which was subsequently saved by goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.
These sides have met once before in a European U21 Championship Finals, in June 2000. Peter Babnic and Szilard Nemeth scored in a 2-0 win in Bratislava.
This is the first competitive meeting since 2003 when England won 2-0 through a Peter Dolezaj own goal and a Phil Jagielka goal.
The last meeting between the two teams was a friendly in June 2007, which England won 5-0 through goals from Kieran Richardson, Nigel Reo-Coker, Steven Taylor, Tom Huddlestone and Leroy Lita.
Despite winning 5-0, that match also featured a penalty shoot-out, prearranged by coach Stuart Pearce. England won 4-3.