Stuart Pearce, the England U21 coach, is happy to go into Friday night's European Championship qualifier against Portugal knowing only a victory will keep alive his side's hopes of reaching the finals. The young Three Lions trail Group Nine leaders Greece by five points with two games to go. Pearce's side must beat Portugal, hope Greece do not defeat Macedonia on Saturday, and record a victory over Lithuania in Colchester on Tuesday not to secure a place in the play-offs. "When the group was drawn we knew Portugal away was going to be a really tough game," said Pearce. "The fact we have to come here to win the game puts even more emphasis on it. There are a lot of teams that were in the finals a year ago who have found it difficult with the transition into the new campaign. "Three of those teams, including the holders [Germany], are out already. The other four need maximum points to go through and we're in that group. "In some ways you'd rather that. You know you've got to come here and win. Even a draw against Greece in our last game would have still meant we needed to win our last two matches." Pearce's cause has not been helped by the loss of several key players, including his first-choice goalkeeper Scott Loach. The Watford keeper flew to Portugal on Wednesday, but returned on Thursday to provide cover for the senior team who take on Bulgaria at Wembley. Micah Richards did not leave the United Kingdom because of an illness, while Jack Rodwell, Andy Carroll, Victor Moses, Henry Lansbury and Alex Smithies are all ruled out through injury.