Gareth Southgate has confirmed his 26-man squad for England’s tilt at winning the rescheduled European Championship this summer and the Three Lions began preparations with a 1-0 win over Austria on Wednesday night.
With their Euro 2020 campaign kicking off against Group D rivals Croatia at Wembley, Southgate must now decide on his starting line-up.
Here, the PA news agency predicts what the England team will look like for the June 13 opener.
The Everton goalkeeper has been Southgate’s first choice between the posts for some time but his position appeared to be under threat from Burnley stopper Nick Pope. Sadly, knee surgery ruled Pope out of the finals so Pickford is therefore expected to again be trusted with the gloves, especially considering the international inexperience of his understudies.
England’s right-back berth is one of the most coveted in the side, given the fact Southgate named four players for the position in his squad. Walker has enjoyed a fine season at Manchester City and is another player so often called upon by the England manager that he would appear to be at the top of the pecking order, although like all City, Manchester United and Chelsea players, he was absent from the Austria win following their European final appearances.
Southgate would have no doubt called upon Manchester United skipper Harry Maguire for his starting XI but has admitted an ankle injury means he is unlikely to be fit in time for the start of the tournament. That opens the door for a number of other players but Mings is comfortable in a back four and the Aston Villa defender has nine caps having started the win on Wednesday night.
With Maguire missing, the role of the senior defensive partner at the heart of England’s defence is likely to fall on the shoulders of John Stones. The Manchester City defender is prone to the odd lapse in concentration but, especially if Southgate goes with a back four, his place is all but assured.
The Chelsea defender will be in high spirits heading into the England camp on the back of helping Chelsea beat Walker and Stones’ City in the Champions League final on Saturday. With stiff competition provided in the shape of an in-form Luke Shaw, Chilwell will need to be at his best to lock down the left-back role.
Wearing the West Ham armband for much of the season, Rice was integral to the Hammers going from relegation candidates into European qualifiers. The defensive midfielder will provide a barrier to Southgate’s back four and is also adept at carrying the ball forward to begin attacks.
Selecting 17-year-old Jude Bellingham would be Southgate’s boldest call – but the Borussia Dortmund midfielder has shown he is capable of coping with the pressure. A fine string of Champions League displays sealed his spot in the Euros squad and he caught the eye on his first international start in the victory against Austria.
The Chelsea man seemed to split the opinion of England fans earlier this season – especially by those who thought his place in the team should have gone to Jack Grealish. He has, however, proved Southgate right to stick with him and has shone for club and country in the past year, more than earning him a place in the starting XI.
The 21-year-old could become one of the breakout stars of the entire tournament and Southgate spoke fondly of him after naming his initial squad last week. If the Manchester City midfielder can carry over his recent club form, he must be included in the team and will be a thorn in the side of even the best defenders on the international stage.
While Sterling’s form has slipped in recent weeks, he has established himself in Southgate’s side and his goalscoring form has only been outshone by captain Harry Kane. That should hold him in good stead and be enough for the Manchester City forward to retain his place.
The skipper is an undoubted starter. The Tottenham striker won the awards for most goals and assists in the Premier League last season and will be raring to go for England. Winner of the golden boot at the 2018 World Cup, Kane’s form in front of goal will go a long way towards determining how far England go in the tournament.