England boss Gareth Southgate is expected to ramp up his preparations for this year’s World Cup by naming his squad to represent the nation in Qatar on Thursday afternoon. The 52-year-old will be desperately hoping to get his picks right in order to give the Three Lions the best chance of winning the tournament, although a handful of injuries to key players will see him forced to adjust in order to strike the right balance in the final 26-man group.
Express Sport takes a look at who Southgate may be inclined to call upon as he looks to lead England to an unlikely World Cup triumph in Qatar…
Although it remains to be seen who will start between the sticks for England at the World Cup, the three goalkeepers who will be named in the squad essentially pick themselves. Jordan Pickford has been Southgate’s first-choice in the last two major tournaments and is a near-certainty to be selected in the 26-man group, while Aaron Ramsdale has gained plenty of admirers since joining Arsenal last summer and should also be in line to make the final cut.
England’s third-choice goalkeeper in Qatar is likely to be Nick Pope, who has impressed for Newcastle over the last few months and would be hugely deserving of a spot on the plane. However, it seems as though Pickford and Ramsdale will be the two main candidates for the No 1 shirt at the tournament, with the decision set to hinge on whether Southgate wants to stick or twist with his last line of defence.
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England will be without two of their potential starters in Reece James and Ben Chilwell, who are both sidelined with long-term injuries and will be unable to take part in the World Cup despite ordinarily being regulars at international level. Their absences could see Luke Shaw included as the only recognised left-back in the squad, while Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kieran Tripper, Kyle Walker and Ben White may be in line to compete for the right-back spot in Qatar.
Another big-name absentee for England could be Harry Maguire, who has been reduced to a bit-part role at Manchester United this season and could be replaced by Joe Gomez, with the Liverpool defender having played regularly at club level in recent weeks. John Stones and Conor Coady could also be given the call-up by Southgate alongside Fikayo Tomori, with many England fans having been eager to see the AC Milan centre-back in a Three Lions shirt over the last few months.
Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham should have absolutely no trouble getting in the England squad after excelling for club and country over the last few years, while Kalvin Phillips got himself into Southgate’s good books by playing a major role at Euro 2020 and could join them on the plane to Qatar later this month. Jordan Henderson’s leadership qualities will likely see him called up as well, although he could struggle to hold down a regular starting berth due to the high standard of players available for England in midfield.
James Ward-Prowse has been in and around the England side for a number of years and could be given an opportunity to impress at the World Cup, with his dead-ball expertise able to serve the Three Lions well in crucial moments over the course of the tournament. James Maddison, meanwhile, has often been overlooked by Southgate but also deserves to be named in the squad after chipping in with six Premier League goals for Leicester City since the start of the campaign.
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England currently boast one of the strongest attacking pools in international football and there is no doubt that Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Bukayo Saka will be among those named in the final 26-man group on Thursday afternoon. Southgate is also likely to call upon the services of Mason Mount, who is able to drop into a deeper midfield role when required and will be tasked with putting his versatility to good use when the competition gets underway.
Phil Foden also looks set to be included for England but the final two spots in the squad appear to be less certain, with several players vying for the chance to perform on the biggest international stage of them all. Marcus Rashford and Ivan Toney could quite easily be the ones to make the cut, although the likes of Callum Wilson and Jadon Sancho will feel hard done by if they are not selected by Southgate in spite of their best efforts over the last few months.
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