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England Under-21s boss Lee Carsley issues warning to his players

England U21 v Kosovo U21 – UEFA Euro U21 – Qualifying – Group G – stadiumMK
(Image credit: Bradley Collyer)

Boss Lee Carsley has warned his England Under-21 stars they always have a target on their backs.

The Young Lions chief believes teams raise their game to face England, who are preparing for Thursday’s Euro 2023 qualifier in Slovenia.

The Under-21s lost a 2-0 lead in the last eight minutes to draw 2-2 in a friendly in Maribor two years ago which sparked wild celebrations from the hosts.

England are second in Group G after an opening 2-0 win over Kosovo last month but Carsley knows they will never have it easy.

He said: “The last time we drew 2-2 so we know Slovenia are a tough team. I remember how excited they were to get a draw after the game and I have made sure the players are aware every opposition they play want to get one over on England.

“I’ve noticed this since I’ve been a coach for an international team whether it’s been the Under-19s, 20s or 21s. We watch a lot of the footage of the opposition, the way they play, but there’s always a tactical change or an extra five or 10 per cent (against England).

“It’s a good showcase to show European teams they can perform at that level.

“One of the big things I try to bang the drum about is that mentality and wanting to not only win but compete every single day.

“Not just with England but these players who are trying to forge careers with their clubs have to get used to that competition. It’s no different when you come away with England.

“I have made the players aware if we’re not at the races it’s potentially going to be a bumpy night. Building on the last camp and performance I expect this team to get stronger every game.”

Only five of the current squad – including captain Marc Guehi and Norwich’s Max Aarons –  remain from the last game in Slovenia.

After Thursday’s game in Celje, England travel to play Andorra on Monday – where they surprisingly drew 3-3 during qualifying for Euro 2021.

Crystal Palace defender Guehi added: “The mentality is always to win, it’s one we want to have in every qualifying game and, hopefully, into the Euros. The whole team is very aware to be successful you need to have that winning mentality.

“We had a very good result against a tough Kosovo team and it’s going to be similar against Slovenia. We know they are going to bring a lot of passion and pride. It’s important to stay focused and bring the same level of performance we had against Kosovo.”