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Poland go into Saturday’s match needing a win in order to advance out of the group. The Czechs, on the other hand, only need at least a draw to pass through to the quarterfinals thanks to their 2-1 victory over Greece on the second matchday. Here are five important stories to look out for during the game.

1. Injuries on both sides

Both Poland and the Czech Republic face a few injury scares to important players. Three of Poland’s starters in the 1-1 draw with Russia are doubtful for Saturday’s decider. Defender Damien Perquis (elbow) and midfielders Dariusz Dudka (stomach) and Eugen Polanski (knee) are the trio that could be missing, however, Perquis’ injury did not require x-rays so he is likely to feature. The biggest doubt would probably be Polanski, who was subbed out of the Russia match due to his injury, caused by a knee-on-knee collision with a Russian player. Losing the Mainz midfielder would be a significant blow to Poland’s chances, as his runs from midfield caused the Russians problems on Tuesday. The Czechs meanwhile are sweating over the fitness of captain Tomas Rosicky who is struggling with an Achilles injury and has been training on his own. Petr Cech’s shoulder injury isn’t as severe as first feared and should be fit for Saturday.

2. Smuda’s goalkeeper conundrum 

Polish number 1 Wojciech Szczesny had a forgettable game against Greece in the opener, committing a papera that led to Greece’s tying goal and conceding a penalty which resulted in a sending off for the Arsenal man. His replacement Przemyslaw Tyton saved the ensuing spot kick and proved to be a solid, calming presence in the draw with Russia. Poland manager Franciszek Smuda has stated his intention to return Szczesny to the starting XI against the Czechs, however, many view it as a gamble. On one hand, keeping with Tyton gives the team more assurance at the back judging from his last performance. However, keeping Tyton in the starting lineup at the expense of the designated number 1 could upset the harmony in the squad should Szczesny lash out. If Szczesny should have another howler that results in Poland’s elimination from the competition, then Smuda will have to take the fall for the decision.

3. Defensive lapses

Each side has committed important defensive blunders that have resulted in goals for the opposition. In Poland’s opener, a Szczesny error gifted a chance for Greece which Dimitrios Salpingidis put away. Against the same opposition, Petr Cech committed a similar mistake that resulted in a Greek goal. Russia’s opening goal against the Poles was the result of poor marking by the Polish defense. Given the recent matches, defensive lapses committed by either side could lead to a goal that changes the momentum of the match.

4. Can the strikers produce?

Between the two starting strikers for the Poles and the Czechs, a solitary goal has been scored between them in the form of a Robert Lewandowski header against Greece. Milan Baros has been ineffectual for the Czechs thus far, and rumors state that he could lose his starting spot to up-and-comer Tomas Pekhart, who did feature in the previous match. For Poland, there is little chance of Smuda dropping the Dortmund star, who has done a good job in Poland’s build-up play and, in fairness, was isolated in the match against Russia due to the more defensive positioning Poland took when they did not have the ball.

5. Home field advantage or home field pressure

So far Poland has done well given the pressures of being hosts mainly due to the public’s low expectations. Having the backing of the Polish supporters has certainly lifted the team in their first two games. However, with the Bialo Czerwoni on the cusp of qualifying for the knockout rounds for the first time, the pressure has risen. Not many expected Poland to get a result from the Russia match due to the opposition’s riveting performance against the Czechs, but the Poles made a good account for themselves against the tournament’s dark-horses. If the Czechs manage an early goal, the pressure will become immense as Poland would have to chase the game in an attempt to grab the equalizer and the lead. If Poland play with confidence and don’t buckle under the pressure, they have every chance of walking away with three points and making history.

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