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Group B: England v Portugal preview

Gareth Southgate has asked his England team to show the mental strength to shrug off the loss of defender John Stones against a Portugal side with "enormous quality".

Group B: England v Portugal preview
Group B: England v Portugal preview ©UEFA.com

• England and Portugal meet in Group B opener in Uherske Hradiste
• Gareth Southgate demands mental toughness from England.
• Rui Jorge warns England that Portugal "have enormous quality"
• England are unbeaten in four matches against Portugal
• John Stones will miss first two England matches with concussion

Qualifying campaign (including play-off)
England: P12 W11 D1 L0 F35 A4 (Group 1 winners)
Qualifying top scorer: Saido Berahino (10)

Portugal: P10 W10 D0 L0 F29 A10 (Group 8 winners)
Qualifying top scorer: Ricardo (5)

Form guide (including friendlies, most recent first)
England: WWWLW
Portugal: LDLWW

Possible lineups
England: Butland; Jenkinson, Moore, Gibson, Garbutt; Ward-Prowse, Chalobah; Redmond, Carroll, Pritchard; Kane.
Out: Stones (concussion); Berahino has withdrawn from squad injured and been replaced by Benik Afobe

Portugal: José Sá; Ricardo Esgaio, Paulo Oliveira, Tiago Ilori, Raphael Guerreiro; William Carvalho, Sérgio Oliveira, João Mário, Bernardo Silva; Ivan Cavaleiro, Ricardo Pereira.

Gareth Southgate, England coach
We have picked players to play a certain way and have to stick with that. We don't intend to change our style. We are conscious that Portugal are a big threat in transition and the counterattack especially so we have to work well without the ball but in terms of when we have it – we can't play any other way.

We know they are a very strong squad and Rui [Jorge] and I agree it will be a really outstanding game in terms of the quality of play on view. For us it is a great challenge, we highly respect Portugal – there are several players that can pose problems if we don't defend and manage the game well.

See ten of the best U21 goals
See ten of the best U21 goals

[On England's attacking threat] You always have a chance if you can score goals, We have scored in every game we have played and that is a great position to be in, but it doesn't win you the tournament – you have to have to a midfield that can handle the ball and dictate games and a defence and goalkeeper that can win you matches as well. The biggest thing for us is mentality – we need to show a game intelligence and mentality where setbacks like we've had [with Stones], how you handle those is key to progressing.

John Stones picked up a head injury and will miss the game with suspected concussion. He will have to miss the Sweden game as well.

Rui Jorge, Portugal coach
We will do everything in our power, on and off the pitch, to get the best possible result. We are fully focused on that, and that's the way we will approach the competition. We have three very difficult matches but that's because all the teams here are very strong.

To play three matches with just a three-day gap between them is a new challenge for us, but the fact we have a group of this quality should help us cope with it. I don't like to make comparisons with past eras but what I can say is this group of players have enormous quality. We have real depth – we have 23 players and even a few more with the same quality who we couldn't select here. All the players did a great job for their clubs during the season.

Current stars at 21
Current stars at 21

We know that in the last four games we didn't beat England. Our Under-21 history is not very good against England but we hope to change that. They have some players like [Lee] Hughes, [Tom] Carroll, [Alex] Pritchard, [James] Ward-Prowse, [Nathan] Redmond, with lot of technical quality which was not usually the case in English teams.

They are a very strong team and with [Saido] Berahino, [Harry] Kane, [Danny] Ings, they have a lot of quality up front. We know it will be difficult – as well as their attacking strength, in qualifying they had a great defence which conceded just two goals. I hope, though, that our quality is greater than theirs.

Senior internationals in squad
England: John Stones (4), Calum Chambers (3), Harry Kane (2), Jack Butland (1), Carl Jenkinson (1)

Portugal: William Carvalho (13), João Mário (3), Rafa Silva (3), Raphael Guerreiro (2), Ivan Cavaleiro (2), Paulo Oliveira (1), Ricardo Horta (1), Bernardo Silva (1)

Match fact
•  England are unbeaten in four matches against Portugal, winning the last two – both 1-0, in qualifying for the 2011 competition. Can Rui Jorge's men end that run on Thursday? Check out the details and much more in our extensive match background.