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Injured Ivan Rakitic Out for Croatia vs. England Nations League Match

Gill Clark@@gillclarkyFeatured Columnist INovember 16, 2018

Croatia's midfielder Ivan Rakitic (L) vies with Spain's midfielder Saul Niguez during the UEFA Nations League football match between Croatia and Spain at Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb on November 15, 2108. (Photo by STR / AFP)        (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
STR/Getty Images

Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic has been ruled out of Croatia's UEFA Nations League match with England at Wembley Stadium on Sunday due to a hamstring injury.

The midfielder came off after 68 minutes of Croatia's 3-2 win over Spain on Thursday, and Croatia coach Dalic confirmed he was due to return to his club side, per Goal's Jamie Smith:

"He will go to Barcelona because there is an injury. You know my practice not to risk [players] if there is anything suspicious.

"We want healthy and ready players, Ivan Rakitic at the moment is not one hundred per cent ready for the game so unfortunately we go without him. 

"We've got [Nikola] Vlasic, [Mateo] Kovacic, [Josip] Brekalo, we have [Milan] Badelj, we always have solutions. We'll look for another solution and that will be fine, I hope."

His injury wasn't specified when reports first surfaced, but Barcelona later detailed their star's ailment as he arrived back in Catalonia:

FC Barcelona @FCBarcelona

❗ [INJURY NEWS] @ivanrakitic has a hamstring strain in his right leg. His return will depend on his recovery https://t.co/OmCR0ptBQG

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The 30-year-old will now spend some time on the sidelines. As well as missing Croatia's match with England, he will also sit out Barcelona's next fixture against Atletico Madrid due to suspension.

SPORT English @Sport_EN

Rakitic suspended for Atletico Madrid clash https://t.co/zCANk4PwWn

The rest may prove to be timely. Rakitic is a key player for club and country and has already made 20 appearances in all competitions this season.

He has also spoken about how many games he played last season, when he won a league and cup double with Barcelona and helped Croatia to the final of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

"I don't think it's coincidence that many of our players started the season late, or have been injured or exhausted," he told the Guardian's Sid Lowe. "I played maybe 70 games last season, practically two seasons in one, and after the World Cup, those first days home were like…[puffed out his cheeks]."

His absence will be a blow to Croatia, who kept their Nations League hopes alive with a thrilling 3-2 win over Spain. The team can now qualify for the finals if they beat England. However, they will be relegated with defeat or a goalless draw.

ESPN FC's Dale Johnson showed the permutations:

Dale Johnson @DaleJohnsonESPN

England's Nations League fate. #ENGUSA England beat Croatia 1. England, 2. Spain, 3. Croatia 0-0 draw 1. Spain, 2. England, 3. Croatia Score draw 1. Spain, 2. Croatia, 3. England Croatia beat England 1. Croatia, 2. Spain, 3. England

Croatia will fancy their chances after a morale-boosting victory over Spain. While the two teams drew 0-0 in Croatia earlier in the group, Dalic's side had the upper hand in the World Cup, knocking England out in the semi-finals.

Dalic does have some strong options to replace Rakitic against England. CKSA Moscow's Nikola Vlasic took his place against Spain and may retain his spot, while Chelsea's Mateo Kovacic is also in contention to start.

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