England are back in World Cup qualifying action against Albania on Friday night at Wembley, where a win will confirm their place in Qatar next year.
Gareth Southgate’s side currently sit top of their group with two games remaining, three points ahead of Poland and five ahead of Albania.
Only group winners are guaranteed a place in Qatar 2022, while runners-up will have to go through a play-off to make it. It makes bouncing back from last month’s draw with Hungary all the more important. But who should start the game? This is our England lineup.
GK: Jordan Pickford
England’s number one has been under pressure recently because of the form of Aaron Ramsdale at Arsenal, but he’s been performing worse than this and kept his place so I’d expect him to get the nod once again.
RB: Reece James
No Chelsea player has been involved in more goals directly than James this season and he has proven his worth in both directions with some excellent defensive displays too. He has stiff competition with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Kyle Walker, but his performances deserve a start.
CB: John Stones
Stones has been a mainstay for Southgate whenever fit and despite having some fitness issues this season again, when he has played he’s been excellent. He’s claimed his City starting place back too, so should continue for England.
CB: Harry Maguire
Maguire arguably shouldn’t even be in the squad this time around if we’re going based on form, but the fact he is means he’ll start. His competition for places is Tyrone Mings who recently lost his place at Villa and Conor Coady who has never really impressed, so it’s a no-brainer really.
LB: Ben Chilwell
Chilwell lost his place as England’s first-choice left-back last year after Luke Shaw’s resurgence, but this season they’ve reverted to type and Chilwell has been flying. He’s been great going forward and defensively solid, so he deserves the starting spot.
DM: Declan Rice
England’s most in-form central midfielder this season, Rice has become indispensable to West Ham and the national team. His ability to win the ball back is unmatched in the squad, he has become a leader and is constantly improving on the ball so he should start here.
CM: Phil Foden
Southgate has previously featured Foden out wide mostly, but this special footballer should be playing centrally. A magician on the ball with great ball manipulation, a killer pass and an eye for goal, get him in the heart of the game to effect games and watch him shine.
CM: Jude Bellingham
Another superstar youngster, Bellingham has firmly established himself as one of the best young midfielders in the game. A regular starter with Dortmund, Bellingham’s skillset is so diverse that he can play any midfield role with ease and would offer the perfect balance alongside Rice and Foden.
RW: Raheem Sterling
Sterling’s season hasn’t gone to plan after Euro 2020, but his spot with England is pretty much guaranteed. He ended a goal drought for City recently and as a key part of Southgate’s England team, he will start on the right wing.
ST: Harry Kane
Another Harry who can count himself lucky that the England squad isn’t simply decided based on form, because if it was the captain would certainly not be involved. But since he is, and he’s the skipper and his record for England is so good, he’ll start and probably score to help them qualify.
LW: Jack Grealish
Grealish’s move to man City has certainly helped establish him as an England regular, but Marcus Rashford’s injury issues have helped him become a starter too. Rashford has withdrawn from the squad, leaving Grealish as the best and most senior option to play from the left so that’s what he’ll do.
It’s finally here, England’s opening game of Euro 2020 takes place in a little over 48 hours.
After the 2018 World Cup run that saw Gareth Southgate’s side make it all the way to the semi-finals, there is revenge on the mind as they take on Croatia once again at Wembley on Sunday in the opening game of Group D.
With Harry Maguire ruled out through injury, the manager has a decision to make based on fitness and system of who will start the important fixture with a good start paramount to any success they chase.
With that said, lets take a look at the starting lineup that should be fielded by Southgate and England against Croatia.
Jordan Pickford (GK)
The goalkeeper position seemed to really be up for grabs at the start of the season, with Pickford’s place in jeopardy because of bad form.
But Nick Pope’s injury ruled him out of the tournament and with Dean Henderson not nailing down a number one spot with Manchester United and Sam Johnstone getting relegated, Southgate will keep the faith with the Everton stopper.
Kyle Walker (RCB)
No Maguire means England are likely to revert to their three/five at the back system that got them so far in Russia.
That means a return to centre-back for Manchester City’s first-choice right-back, who provided great cover and ability on the ball from the right side of the three during that tournament. While his pace would be missed out wide, England full-back options are so strong that the decision won’t be nearly as thought about as it was back then.
John Stones (LCB)
The Man City man enjoyed the best season of his career this past year, proving essential to the winning mahcine in central defence.
While he’s far more comfortable on the right hand side, he’s good in one-on-one duels and is good with the ball with both feet. He’s a far better defender and footballer than Tyrone Mings so despite the Villa man being a left-footer, Stones gets the nod on this side for me.
Conor Coady (CB)
The central position would have been Maguire’s almost certainly, but without him it should go to the Wolves captain.
I personally didn’t have Coady in my squad because I think there are better English defenders than him available, but his experience playing in the centre of a back-three for Wolves could be essential here. He’s comfortable on the ball playing out from the back, but also happy to throw his body on the line and is a natural leader. He gets the nod for me.
Reece James (RWB)
Fresh off winning the UEFA Champions League in this position, James has to get the nod here.
A supreme athlete, James is strong as a bull and quick enough to completely nullify Raheem Sterling during the final last month. He’s great defensively when in one-on-one situations and is good in the air, plus his composure on the ball has seen him play in central midfield in the past.
He has a great delivery too which will only help Harry Kane in attack, so it’s position to lose.
Declan Rice (CM)
A stellar campaign for West Ham United saw Rice just miss out on Champions League football with his club, but he has earned plenty of praise from the big boys in the country.
A solid defensive midfielder, Rice is great defensively. He reads the game very well, intercepts attacks and is a great tackler while also being able to carry the ball forward in a counter attack if necessary. With that said, his passing through the lines is a bit iffy and he’ll need someone more attack minded next to him but he deserves his starting spot.
Mason Mount (CM)
Chelsea’s player of the year and the man who provided the match-winning assist in the Champions League final, Mount has earned his place in the England side this summer.
High energy, a great presser, comfortable on the ball in tight spaces and creative Mount is a perfect partner in central midfield alongside his childhood best friend Rice. While not a natural central midfielder in a two he has all the attributes to play the role and adds a bit more of an attacking intent to the lineup in a defensive formation.
Luke Shaw (LWB)
England’s best left-back this season by a distance, Shaw has fought his way back in from the wilderness to be his nation’s first-choice. Despite Ben Chilwell’s performances helping Chelsea’s European successes, Shaw should start.
He was brilliant from about November onwards and had a career-best season in terms of goals and assists, registering more assists than any other defender in the Premier League in 2021. He has great pace, power, is a solid passer of the ball and is high on confidence and would be my pick to start.
Jack Grealish (CAM)
The man of the year, the people’s champion. Jack Grealish HAS to start for England this summer.
He had a true breakout season in the Premier League with Aston Villa this year and was in the conversation for player of the year before a shin injury saw him miss 12 games of the season at a crucial period.
Since returning from injury though he has shone in both warm-up games for England with his ball carrying ability, his passing and his creativity and it would be a crime if he wasn’t rewarded with a starting place for the tournament opener.
Marcus Rashford (CAM)
Maybe a controversial pick, but Rashford has to start for me. 22 goals and 15 assists for Manchester United this season is a remarkable output for a 23-year-old attacker and he has proven he really is one of the best attackers in the league.
With the formation selected, England will have plenty of width from their wing-backs and with Grealish dropping deep to collect the ball and create, Rashford’s pace and directness will be key for England to create any openings.
He’s a good finisher and his one-on-one abilities against defenders will have Croatia worried, so he should get the nod as one of the two behind Harry Kane.
Harry Kane (ST)
The captain and the best player the country has, if one position in the team is a lock it’s Kane’s.
The Spurs man is coming off the best season of his career domestically with his club, where he won the golden boot and the playmaker award for most goals and assists in the Premier League. He has a propensity to drop deep which would allow him to create and link with other attacking players but also create space for Rashford to run in behind too. He starts so long as he’s even half fit.
Today is the day that Gareth Southgate makes half the nation absolutely ecstatic and the other half furious as he names his England squad for this summer’s European Championships.
UEFA agreed to allow an extra three places in the squad for managers to add following a full campaign of a hectic schedule owing to the COVID-19 pandemic over the last 18 months or so.
That should make it a little bit easier to select a squad but there will still be some big names who miss out. While Southgate will name a provisional squad today, I wanted to see just how difficult it is to do and how different people will react, so this is my 26-man England squad for Euro 2020.
Jordan Pickford: The Everton stopper’s place as number one for the national team had come under doubt this season but Southgate has stuck by him for the most part and he will 100% be in the squad.
Dean Henderson: He’s always had great ability and has come through the youth ranks with England. Now as Manchester United’s number one, he has earned his place in the senior England team too.
Sam Johnstone: The third spot was sure to be Nick Pope’s, but the Burnley keeper needs knee surgery and is almost certain to be ruled out of the tournament. That means West Brom keeper Johnstone will get the chance to be part of the squad as the third choice.
Kyle Walker: Quite comfortably the best performing English right-back this season, Walker won the Premier League and is in the Champions League with Manchester City and deserves his spot. He also offers some flexibility if needed, having played as a centre-back at the 2018 World Cup too.
Reece James: A young right-back, James’ season started impeccably and while he didn’t keep that level throughout the season he wasn’t bad. Good going forward and excellent in a one-on-one situation with a great delivery, he deserves a chance.
Trent Alexander-Arnold: The fact his spot in the squad is so in question is bonkers to me. He had a really tough first half of the season and was rightly left out of the last England squad, but since then he has been back to his brilliant best. He’s improved defensively and has an X-factor when going forward that should make him a shoe-in.
Ben Chilwell: Southgate’s first choice left-back for the most part has had a good debut campaign with Chelsea this season and could top it off by winning the Champions League. He’s decent at both ends of the pitch and this is one of the positions where the choices are pretty clear.
Luke Shaw: Quite comfortably the best left-back in the country this season, Shaw has seen an incredible resurgence in his career this season. He’s been fantastic going forward, with a career high of assists this season but also solid defensively and can even fill in as a third centre-back in a back three too so he’s in.
Harry Maguire: England’s best centre-back and a leader at the back, he’s had a very good season for Manchester United. Aerially he is dominant and while he has got a lack of pace, he knows how to play without it for the most part and shines for Southgate so will start so long as he recovers from his ankle injury.
John Stones:Another player who has seen a huge resurgence in their career this season, Man City have a lot to thank Stones for. While Ruben Dias picked up much of the plaudits (and rightly so), Stones shone next to him and his passing ability from the back should see him as a starter alongside Maguire with fitness permitting.
Ezri Konsa: While I don’t expect him to go, Konsa is more than deserving of a spot in the squad after the season he has had. Alongside Tyrone Mings, he has shown a fantastic ability in all aspects of defending as well as playing out from the back and in my eyes has outshone his centre-back partner. He has great pace to cover round and is good on the ball to build from the back too, meaning he’d fit into the squad brilliantly.
Fikayo Tomori: For sure a wildcard pick, but Tomori’s form since his January loan move to AC Milan can’t be ignored. He was brilliant in Serie A and the Europa League and caught the eye of everyone who paid any sort of attention. That means if Southgate was doing his job properly he’d have spotted him too, and he deserves an inclusion based on form and ability over Wolves captain Conor Coady.
Jordan Henderson: Arguably the biggest character in the camp, Henderson is an automatic pick if he’s fit. Great energy, leadership, solid defensively and a decent passing range too, he starts never mind gets included in the squad.
Declan Rice: Potentially the most important piece of the jigsaw in Southgate’s midfield, the West Ham man’s defensive qualities are something that only he brings to the squad. A fantastic tackler with great awareness, he will be key if England get into the latter stages to take on the better teams.
Jude Bellingham: Not many people will have had him down as getting into this squad at the start of the season, but the 17-year-old has been sensational for Borussia Dortmund and earned himself senior minutes earlier in this campaign. He has the ability to fulfil every midfield role and that fearlessness he brings to his game could be huge.
Kalvin Phillips: A fantastic ball playing defensive midfielder, Phillips has been a big part of Southgate’s plans in squads over the last year and he deserves his place in the side as the insurance policy in the centre.
Mason Mount: A real breakthrough campaign this season for Mount, who made himself indispensable for Chelsea and forced his way into the England setup too. Whether it be deeper or slightly more advanced, Mount is almost certain to start and will be included.
Bukayo Saka: The Arsenal man was one of very few bright sparks in a shocking season for the Gunners and his versatility could be absolutely vital for the squad. Able to play as a full-back, wing-back, winger or even central midfielder, he should find that gets him into the squad above anything else.
Jack Grealish: One of the stand-out performers in the Premier League this season prior to his shin injury, Grealish more than deserves his place in the squad. Brilliant ball retention and manipulation, as well as a ball carrier, eye for a pass and top performances for Villa, he has to be in.
Jadon Sancho: Strangely enough there are squads that don’t have Sancho involved and that just makes zero sense to me. A dazzling winger with pace, agility, a brilliant change of direction, goals and assists, he’s performed brilliantly for Dortmund after a slow start and deserves his spot.
Raheem Sterling: After Harry Kane, Sterling is probably the first attacker on the squad list for Southgate and he’s one of them for me too. While his season for Man City was somewhat underwhelming in comparison to previous campaigns, he has goals, assists and brilliant wing play and can play on either side. His quality is high and he’s a must-pick.
Marcus Rashford: The best season of his club career was slowed somewhat by injuries towards the end, but 20+ goals and 15+ assists in all competitions make him a sure-fire pick. He has that X-factor in one on one situations, has brilliant pace and skill, can play across the entire front three and is a good impact sub if he doesn’t start too.
Harry Kane: Well, duh. England’s best player by a distance, Kane is in the squad and I reckon he’ll play every minute of the tournament too.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin: Since Kane will likely play in every game and play most minutes, the secondary striker role is one that likely won’t be used much. Despite that, you need someone who is a presence on the pitch if they are needed and can score a variety of different goals, so the Everton man is the best pick.
Mason Greenwood: A wildcard pick again, but it’s rare that as a manager you have so much quality to choose from and have to leave someone out. But Greenwood’s quality with both feet, whether through the middle or out wide means he absolutely has to be in. There’s nobody I’d rather a chance fell to when I needed a goal outside of Kane and that’s enough to sway me.
Another international break, another dodgy team selection from Gareth Southgate, another not-so great performance from England as they were beaten 2-0 by Belgium in Brussels.
First half strikes from Youri Tielemans and Dries Mertens put the number one ranked team in the world into a comfortable lead as they cruised to victory with England struggling once again overall to turn in the type of performance that should be expected with the squad they have at their disposal.
As criticism came in post-game about Southgate’s team selection the obvious options the squad has are coming to light more and more. So what is his best XI right now?
Goalkeeper and Defenders
Dean Henderson (GK): The Manchester United stopper isn’t getting regular first-team football right now, but he is the best goalkeeper they have. He’s much better and more reliable than Jordan Pickford and his distribution is a big edge he has over Nick Pope. He shouldn’t be punished for not starting over David De Gea yet.
Reece James (RB): The Chelsea youngster has forced his way into the England squad following great performances for Frank Lampard’s side this season. He’s excellent on the ball, good going forward and defensively and is versatile enough to play in different positions too if needed. He fits the system that little bit better than Trent Alexander-Arnold and the other right-back options for me.
Harry Maguire (CB): If you know me, you know I’m not his biggest fan. England however are bereft of quality options at the back so experience is needed. Maguire is good in the air, decent on the ball and organises relatively well. He’s arguably the best of a bad bunch, so should start.
Joe Gomez (CB): His place in the side is up for grabs right now after a knee injury ruled him out for the next few months but when fit he should be an automatic starter. The 23 year old is quick, good on the ball, strong in the air and has all the attributes needed to help form a partnership with Maguire at the back.
Ben Chilwell (LB): Much like at centre back, England aren’t loaded with quality options at left-back right now. The Chelsea man‘s greatest competition is arguably Bukayo Saka, a natural winger, or Luke Shaw who hasn’t been in an England squad since 2018. He’s got good attributes but isn’t quite at the top level with any of them. Still, good enough to be starting for England.
Jordan Henderson (DM): He’s arguably at his best in a box-to-box role but Henderson has shown with Liverpool that he is capable of holding the fort defensively too. With his experience and leadership qualities as well as his ability to read the game means he can do that job for the national team too. Henderson can win the ball back and pass it off to the better, more technically tidy players in the team and let them focus on attacking.
Phil Foden (CM): Foden hasn’t broken into the England squad on a permanent basis just yet, but on ability he should be one of the first names on the team sheet. Foden is knocking on the door to be a regular in the Man City tea and his creativity is exactly what England are missing in midfield. He adds technical quality, goals, a killer pass and a little bit of x-factor to the centre of the pitch and would be a shining light.
Jack Grealish (CM): While his best form has come out on the left wing, Grealish is most dangerous when drifting into central positions. His dribbling and willingness to always show for the ball and create is much needed if England are to dominate games in the way they want to. He showed in the defeat to Belgium that he is more than ready for this level of football and he is one of England’s best players. He must start.
Raheem Sterling (RW): Sterling has spent the last 18 months playing primarily as a left-winger for Man City but prior to that he was just as effective from the right hand side. His pace, directness, ability to beat a defender one on one and eye for goal make him a world class attacker and one that must start for England.
Marcus Rashford (LW): The Manchester United poster boy has established himself as an England regular since making his debut as a striker back in 2016. Much like Sterling, he has untold amounts of ability out wide. Pace, strength, vision, passing ability, ball-striking technique and skill mean he is the best option out on the left right now.
Harry Kane (ST): England’s best player. A world class striker and the captain of the side, Kane has proven time and time again that when he plays he scores goals. He’s showed for Tottenham recently that having lethal runners either side of him brings out a new side to his game too so the potential of that front three is frightening, especially with Foden and Grealish supplying and creating in behind them too.
As England continue to look towards the future, one position in particular continues to produce elite talent no matter the club.
The nation have currently got top quality options out wide in attack, with the likes of Raheem Sterling, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford backed up by Callum Hudson-Odoi, Mason Greenwood and Bukayo Saka. After having problems for years with their full-backs, they now have a plethora of talent in the right-back position too.
Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier and Trent Alexander-Arnold are the current occupiers of the shirt in the senior national team. But with Walker now 30 and Trippier turning 30 this week, England are likely to look to the future sooner rather than later. Alexander-Arnold looks set to be given the opportunity to make the shirt his own, and rightly so considering his performances for Liverpool. But there are several others out there currently putting their name in the mix.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka has been one of the best defenders in the league over the last two campaigns and being the first choice right-back at Manchester United will certainly be doing him no harm. At 22 years old, the former Crystal Palace man has seemingly mastered the defensive side of the game but going forward he lacks quality. As an ex-attacker that may come as a surprise, but his gangly frame sees him struggle to dribble and beat men on the ball and then his technical ability is in question with the ball at his feet. He is however quite comfortably the best pure defender England have.
Another option for Gareth Southgate is Chelsea’s Reece James. At 20 years old and younger than Alexander-Arnold, he will be licking his lips at the battle. After going out on loan for Wigan where he often found himself playing in midfield, James is somewhere in the middle of Alexander-Arnold and Wan-Bissaka in terms of attributes. He’s very comfortable on the ball and good in both directions off it. He’s not quite as good going forward as Trent Alexander-Arnold and not quite as good defensively as Wan-Bissaka, but he’s better than both in the opposite aspect of the game which puts him right in the mix.
A wildcard option is Brighton’s Tariq Lamptey. After coming through the Chelsea academy, Lamptey found himself behind James in the pecking order under Frank Lampard. He made his Chelsea debut as a substitute against Arsenal and put in a stellar performance but then made the decision in January to pursue regular first team football at the Amex Stadium. Since signing, he has been a regular at right wing-back and performed impeccably well. At 19 years old, he has plenty of room for improvement and the fact he’s playing in a different formation will help him. Southgate has shown a willingness to use wing-backs on occasion and that could provide an advantage for Lamptey with the others not experienced in the role. With quality on the ball, ability to beat a man, pace, defensive ability in one-on-one situations and good reading of the game, he has all the tools to be a huge success.
England’s future is bright in the wide positions in attack and they’re now developing insane, elite talents defensively too. Now it’s time to turn their attentions to central midfield.