Ahead of Tuesday’s crucial Group D decider at Wembley, there is plenty of discussion over how Gareth Southgate could set up, especially in the aftermath of a dismal scoreless draw on Friday night with their northern rivals, Scotland.
The Czech Republic have enjoyed exactly the same start to their European Championship, with a win and a draw over Scotland and Croatia respectively; a win will see either side top the group.
But following that disappointing draw with Steve Clarke’s side in horrific conditions in the English capital, Southgate has some decisions to make over who wins a start. Prior to this prediction, it must be noted that England have some key permutations on who will play:
- Gareth Southgate has already confirmed that striker Harry Kane will start
- Chelsea duo Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell have been instructed to self-isolate after close contact with Billy Gilmour of Scotland, who tested positive on Monday – but Southgate has crucially stated that this does not mean they will be unavailable. For the purpose of this prediction, we have taken the decision to rule both Mount and Chilwell out of contention.
In a decider of which side tops the group, this is probably the safest decision on the pitch. Neither Sam Johnstone nor Aaron Ramsdale are going to feature in this tournament unless Everton ‘keeper Jordan Pickford is ruled out via suspension or injury.
Interestingly, the draw at Wembley on Friday was a night that Trent Alexander-Arnold may have impressed – but his injury makes that a moot point. However, his closest alternative, Kieran Trippier, should be the man to start given neither Kyle Walker nor Reece James particularly impressed in their spells on the right.
In the middle of defence, it might be easy to overthink this decision, given that Harry Maguire may well be ready to start for the Three Lions.
However, Tyrone Mings has done little to dissuade Southgate to select him again, and as such, he and John Stones should continue their partnership. The worst thing England could do is rip up a settled defence, only for Maguire to aggravate his injury after twenty minutes.
And at left-back, given Chilwell will be isolating, it will be Luke Shaw to slot in for a second consecutive start.
This is tricky, given that Mason Mount is unavailable for this clash. A situation like this would be ideal for the likes of Jesse Lingard or James Ward-Prowse to earn a start, but given their absence from the squad, it may mean that Southgate will be forced to select a forward as his creative midfielder.
With Jordan Henderson still not match-fit, it would be unwise to start him here, and so Southgate will most likely return to the Declan Rice-Kalvin Phillips double pivot, with the option to select the young Jude Bellingham from the bench should the pair disappoint as they did on Friday.
And to spearhead the three-man midfield, this is a perfect opportunity to select the dynamic Jack Grealish, who couldn’t make too much of an impact against the Tartan Army from the bench but could make a difference as a fluid number ten.
As mentioned earlier, it will be captain Harry Kane to lead the line for England despite a difficult start to his Euro 2020 campaign – but it will be Kane’s last opportunity to get firing before the knockout stages, where the pressure will be on heavier than ever before.
On the wings, Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden struggled to make their mark against Scotland, but with Grealish already on the pitch, perhaps there is less need for Foden to control the ball and make driving runs from the right-wing.
As a result, this could be a chance for Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho to help England out from the left and right, perhaps foreshadowing a potential partnership at Manchester United next season.
However, Sterling has never let Southgate down in international tournaments, and as such it should be expected for the Manchester City forward to receive another appearance.
Predicted starting line-up
Pickford; Trippier, Stones, Mings, Shaw; Phillips, Rice, Grealish; Rashford, Kane, Sterling