Crouch - I can work with Defoe
Strike duo could be paired together against Croatia
Last Updated: November 17, 2007 3:14pm
Crouch: Defoe hope
Peter Crouch is confident he can again form an effective partnership as England prepare to tackle Croatia.
Steve McClaren has been shorn of the services of star striker Michael Owen, injured in Friday's friendly win over Austria, for the final Euro 2008 qualification clash.
Depending on results elsewhere this weekend, England will either need victory to book their place in the finals, or be facing a meaningless fixture where the Wembley crowd are likely to make their feelings known on a dismal failure to qualify.
But the giant Crouch, who has played together with Defoe at Under 18, Under 21 and senior level, believes he and the diminutive Spurs striker can be relied on against Slaven Bilic's men.
With Owen joining Wayne Rooney and Emile Heskey on the injured list, McClaren has few other options, other than Alan Smith, or employing a lone striker and a five-man midfield.
Crouch said: "Of course, it is disappointing with Michael getting injured. It is a huge blow for us. Everyone knows his goalscoring record is fantastic.
"Michael is a top-class player and, in the big games when it really counts, he invariably scores goals.
"But myself and Jermain have played together many times, through the England Under 18s and Under 21s, and right back then worked well together.
"When Steve McClaren came in, right at the start of his reign we both got a couple of goals against Greece and, whenever I've played with him, it seems to have worked.
"I felt good alongside him against Austria, and if that is again the case on Wednesday, then I am sure it will work."
Crouch added: "It is the big man, little man combination. I've done it in partnership with Michael and Jermain as well and it does seem to work.
"We play well together and if that is the combination on Wednesday against Croatia, I am sure it can come off."
Crouch was on target in Vienna with a first-half header, and McClaren believes that will lift his spirits ahead of Wednesday's game.
"Peter Crouch is a handful for anybody," McClaren said.
"He has played quite a few times for Liverpool recently and been quite effective. The goal is bound to help his confidence.
"We may only need one on Wednesday and, if that is the case, we are capable of getting it."