Euro 2020 Qualifiers: England squad list and predicted line-up
England’s first two qualifiers for Euro 2020 are right around the corner now, as Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions take on the Czech Republic at Wembley on Friday before heading off to play against Montenegro in Podgorica on Monday. Southgate announced his squad a week ago, but since then there’s been a couple of changes to it – John Stones, Luke Shaw, Fabian Delph and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have all withdrawn due to injuries, and so James Ward-Prowse and Callum Hudson-Odoi have been drafted in to replace them.
The majority of the squad this time around are all veterans of either the 2018 World Cup campaign or the UEFA Nations League campaign of late 2018, meaning most of the headlines this time have centred around the two uncapped players named in the squad; the afore-mentioned Hudson-Odoi, and West Ham’s holding midfielder Declan Rice, who controversially switched allegiance from the Republic of Ireland, who had already awarded him 3 caps – albeit in friendly matches, which is why FIFA have approved his switch.
Nobody is really questioning Rice’s call-up in terms of his skills, though – England are short on talent in the holding midfield area, with questions around both Jordan Henderson and Eric Dier despite both men putting in some impressive performances for England in the past. And Rice has been on a run of fantastic form in the Premier League and has developed into one of West Ham’s key players as of late.
Hudson-Odoi on the other hand is a total wild card and it’s understandable why some fans would be cynical of Southgate calling up an 18-year old who has yet to start a Premier League game for his club, Chelsea. But then the youngster was a key member of England’s u17 World Cup winning team in 2017, and when he has played for Chelsea – largely in the Europa League – he’s been outstanding, scoring 4 goals and making 2 assists. Most Blues fans want him in the starting line-up – and so they’ll probably be excited that Southgate is handing him this opportunity.
Outside of the afore-mentioned withdrawals, a couple of other players were unavailable to Southgate due to injuries. Midfielders Jesse Lingard and Harry Winks – of Manchester United and Tottenham respectively – were ruled out, which must’ve been disappointing to England’s coaching team after both men played key roles in the Three Lions’ Nations League victories over Spain and Croatia last year. And Liverpool defender Joe Gomez is still on the shelf, too.
Full Squad List:
Jordan Pickford (Everton), Jack Butland (Stoke), Tom Heaton (Burnley); Kyle Walker (Manchester City), Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Ben Chilwell (Leicester), Michael Keane (Everton), Kieran Trippier (Tottenham), James Tarkowski (Burnley), Harry Maguire (Leicester), Danny Rose (Tottenham); Eric Dier (Tottenham), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Ross Barkley (Chelsea), Dele Alli (Tottenham), Declan Rice (West Ham), James Ward-Prowse (Southampton); Harry Kane (Tottenham), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund), Callum Wilson (Bournemouth), Callum Hudson-Odoi (Chelsea)
In terms of how England will line up against the Czechs on Friday, there are a handful of options. After switching from the World Cup’s 3-5-2 formation to a 4-3-3 for the Nations League games in the latter part of 2018, it’s likely that Southgate will keep faith with this system; after all, if it’s not broke, you don’t fix it, and it was this system that allowed England to defeat Spain and Croatia.
Jordan Pickford is likely to start in goal – despite questions over his form Southgate has suggested he’s still his #1 for the moment at least. After his outstanding performances in late 2018 I’d expect Ben Chilwell to be the chosen left-back; right-back is a little harder as Trent Alexander-Arnold and Kyle Walker both have a claim to the spot, with Kieran Trippier likely missing out due to his spotty form for Spurs this season. I’d guess that Southgate will go with Walker due to his experience.
In the centre of defence, it seems nailed on that with no Stones or Gomez, Harry Maguire will be one of the two players selected due to his experience and general good form with England. The Guardian is reporting that Michael Keane will be his partner, but Southgate could also go with James Tarkowski – it’s practically a coin-flip in trying to predict this one in fact.
The Nations League games saw Southgate’s trio of midfielders largely comprise of a holding man, a passing man and a creative man, and I suspect that won’t change here. West Ham’s Rice will likely be chosen as the holder, particularly with some fitness concerns around both Eric Dier and Jordan Henderson.
If he’s considered fit, Henderson may play as the passing man, but that role could also fall to Ward-Prowse. And given Dele Alli is only just returning to fitness, I’d expect Ross Barkley to play as the more forward-thinking midfielder, as he did against Spain and Croatia last year.
It’s a no-brainer that Harry Kane will play as the central striker against the Czechs, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Callum Wilson given the nod against Montenegro should Southgate decide to rest his captain. The wide forward positions are a little trickier to predict. Raheem Sterling should definitely fill one of them; he’s been on fire this season, scoring 15 Premier League goals and making 9 assists, too.
Marcus Rashford would probably be the natural choice for the other wide berth, but reports suggest he’s been carrying a knock to his ankle in training this week. If that’s the case, then the window could open for Jadon Sancho to make his first competitive start for England. The 18-year old has been in fantastic form at Borussia Dortmund this season, hitting 8 goals in the Bundesliga and making a phenomenal 12 assists.
This could be his big chance to shine for the Three Lions – but Rashford’s injury could also mean a chance for Hudson-Odoi to make his senior debut, most likely from the bench as a replacement for Sancho or Sterling.
Predicted Line-Up vs. Czech Republic:
Pickford, Chilwell, Maguire, Keane, Walker, Rice, Henderson, Barkley, Sterling, Sancho, Kane