How will England lineup against Germany?
A mixture of injuries and surprise absentees have left Gareth Southgate with somewhat of an unfamiliar selection of players to choose from for the upcoming double header with Germany and Brazil. Four uncapped players have been included, while Southgate has also revealed that members of Aidy Boothroyd’s under-21 squad could be included for the Brazil game on Tuesday night.
With Ruben Loftus-Cheek set to start against Germany on Friday night in his debut for the senior side, here’s how we think the Three Lions will line up for the contest at Wembley Stadium against the reigning world champions.
Goalkeeper - Jack Butland
Stoke City’s Jack Butland has been one of the few bright sparks in what has been an otherwise disappointing season for the Potters so far. The 24-year-old was knocking on the door to replace Joe Hart as England’s no.1 prior to a long-term ankle injury suffered against Friday’s opponents Germany in March 2016. Now seems like the ideal time for Butland to return in goal and test him against elite competition in a lower-pressure situation, with there being little to learn from Hart in such a fixture.
Centre-Back - John Stones
The performance levels of John Stones this season have been one of the main positives for Southgate heading into the World Cup, with the Manchester City defender beginning to show signs of fulfilling his potential at the Etihad Stadium. Pep Guardiola has done an excellent job in overseeing his development this term, appearing to strike a more balanced approach between playing out from the back and completing the fundamentals of defending. His decision making has improved tremendously and has a big opportunity to establish himself as a first-choice defender in this side.
Centre-Back - Phil Jones
Like Stones, Phil Jones has shown rapid development at his club side this season - giving Southgate a much-needed boost of options in what was looking like a thin pool of players to select from. Jones has struck a solid partnership with Eric Bailly at Old Trafford this season and taking his club form onto the international stage could really help his chances of earning his place in the 23-man squad travelling to Russia after missing out on Euro 2016 in France. Jones has experience of playing in both a back three and back four this season and that flexibility could make him a valuable player for England.
Centre-Back - Michael Keane
Though he may not have had the most successful start to the season with Everton, Michael Keane is far from the reason for the Toffees struggles this term and has impressed in his four caps earned to date. Keane made his international debut against Germany in March as part of a back three and was extremely impressive in doing so, looking unphased against top-class opposition. Gary Cahill’s fitness problems likely means it will be Keane that is drafted in to start in defence, given he has more experience at this level than alternative options Harry Maguire and Joe Gomez.
Right Wing-Back - Kyle Walker
There is now little debate that Kyle Walker is England’s first choice right-back - whether it be as part of a back three or back four - following injuries to Nathaniel Clyne and his own excellent personal form at club level. Walker has arguably got even better at Manchester City this season, both from a defensive standpoint and with his end product in the final third, already providing four assists this season, one less than he managed all season for Spurs in his final year with the club. His pace and directness make him an excellent outlet for England and is perfect for the wing-back role if Southgate opts to go to the World Cup playing a back three.
Central Midfield - Eric Dier
Eric Dier has looked back to his best for Tottenham this season, having become a key man for Mauricio Pochettino’s side once again this term. 12 of his 15 appearances for Spurs this season have come playing in central midfield and he has thrived from playing in a more settled position this term, though he has also performed admirably when part of Tottenham’s back three. Should both Hart and Cahill miss out on Friday night, Dier could be a potential candidate to lead England out as captain on Friday night and is the most experienced midfielder in the squad with 21 caps to his name.
Central Midfield - Jake Livermore
In the absence of the likes of Dele Alli, Adam Lallana, Jordan Henderson, Jack Wilshere and Harry Winks, this could be another for West Brom’s Jake Livermore to add to the five England caps already to his name. Injuries ultimately handed Livermore, along with Burnley’s Jack Cork, the opportunity to be involved with this England squad and Southgate is clearly a fan of what he can offer the team having selected him so often since taking over as boss. Central midfield remains a problem area for this England squad and Livermore will face a huge test against the likes of Toni Kroos, Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil.
Left Wing-Back - Ryan Bertrand
Like Walker on the opposite side, Ryan Bertrand has been a regular starter for England under Southgate in what is a congested position to choose from at present. That has come partly from his own excellent form for Southampton, along with the absence of Danny Rose through injury. With the Spurs man now back in the fold, Bertrand will have a real fight on his hands to show he is worthy of a place in the starting XI, though Southgate should remain loyal to a man who has been one of the most consistent performers in this England side.
Attacking Midfield - Ruben Loftus-Cheek
According to Sky Sports, Chelsea’s Crystal Palace loanee Ruben Loftus-Cheek is the only one of the new faces to the England squad that will start against Germany, with Joe Gomez, Jack Cork and Tammy Abraham all likely to settle for a place on the bench. The 21-year-old has shown flashes of promise at Crystal Palace this season, though has suffered setbacks in the shape of thigh and groin injuries but has done enough to be called up from the under-21s. Southgate was a huge fan of Loftus-Cheek during his as under-21 boss and would often use him as the most advanced of three midfielders next to Nathaniel Chalobah and James Ward-Prowse, so could be utilised there for the seniors this weekend.
Striker - Jamie Vardy
From a goalscoring perspective, Jamie Vardy is England’s most in-form striker available to them at this moment in time after netting six goals for Leicester City in the Premier League. With Harry Kane, Daniel Sturridge, Danny Welbeck and Jermain Defoe all absent from the squad, Vardy will now have the opportunity to start his first international since England’s last meeting with Germany in March. In total, nine of Vardy’s 17 caps have come from the bench but he has the second most-prolific goalscoring record in the current squad with six goals - only Ashley Young has more with seven. As such, Vardy can see this as a real opportunity to show what he can do in the side.
Striker - Marcus Rashford
It seems ludicrous to suggest about a 20-year-old, but Marcus Rashford looks to be the most exciting and important attacking player in this England squad. Stacked with defenders and midfielders, Rashford is one of only three centre-forwards in the squad and will arguably be first-choice after establishing himself as a regular in the Manchester United side. Both he and Vardy can terrify defences with his pace, while it is also likely that Rashford will be the man on set-pieces, with no real specialists currently in the side. Barring injury, he is someone that should not fear his place in the squad being under threat, though he will hope to improve on his scoring record of two goals in 13 caps.