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Gareth Southgate’s dilemmas as he prepares to name England squad for European Championships

Provisional squad named at 2pm before party is reduced to 26 on June 7

Gareth Southgate

England boss Gareth Southgate will name his provisional squad for the European Championships at 2pm on Tuesday.

He is likely to name 30+ players in his initial group before trimming it back to 26 before the UEFA deadline of 11pm on June 7.

That number is an increase of three for this tournament, which the England boss has previously hinted might allow him to gamble on players returning from injury.

So which are the names to look out for? Who won’t have slept too well on Monday night? Who might have to make hasty summer holiday plans with the family?

Let’s take a look…

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Marcus Rashford

Marcus Rashford

The big one. This is the story no matter what Southgate decides. There was a time when Rashford was one of the first names on the team sheet, let alone in the squad, but the 26-year-old’s form in a dismal season for Manchester United has raised serious questions over his place for the first time.

He has scored eight goals and assisted just five more across all competitions this season, failing to score in the final eight games of his season and coming off the bench late in his club’s final day win at Brighton on Sunday.

Southgate is known for showing loyalty to players who have previously served him well so it would be a fairly seismic shock if he were to be omitted from the provisional squad, as he has 60 caps and has played in two World Cups and the last European Championships.

However the form of Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka and Cole Palmer this season may mean there is no role for him. All three would be more at home on the right side of attack but are talented and versatile enough to not be considered square pegs in round holes. Rashford has not played more than 15 minutes of any England game in over six months.

The other problem for Rashford is Anthony Gordon, who is natural on the left and has enjoyed a good season at Newcastle despite Eddie Howe’s side failing to hit the heights of the last campaign.

The 23-year-old did miss Sunday’s win over Brentford with an apparent ankle problem but, so long as it’s not serious, you’ll see his name on your screen this afternoon.

Expect Rashford to be in the provisional squad but his inclusion in the final squad may depend largely on Gordon’s fitness and the Man United man showing a return to some sort of form in the warm-up games against Iceland and Bosnia.

Gareth Southgate

Jack Grealish / Jarrod Bowen / James Maddison / Eberechi Eze / Jadon Sancho / Raheem Sterling

Jack Grealish went on the mother of all benders to celebrate Man City’s historic 2022/23 season but it seems the hangover lingers on. He has failed to establish himself in Pep Guardiola’s team this season, largely playing second-fiddle to Jeremy Doku in recent months and suffering a few untimely niggles. He’s always proved a useful player for Southgate off the bench, however, and expect him to fulfil that role again in Germany this summer.

If Grealish is taking up a place then that’s probably bad news for Bowen, despite a stellar season for West Ham. Maddison’s campaign for Tottenham began brightly but an ankle injury derailed his, and his club’s momentum, and neither really rediscovered those highs from the first three months of the season.

Eze’s season was also hampered by injury at unfortunate times but his form as Crystal Palace won six of their final seven games means he should feel very hard done by if not included in the provisional party as a minimum.

Sancho’s career has been revived at Dortmund and he has a Champions League final to look forward to too. He knows Germany as well as anyone and might be a good outside bet for a place in the 26.

Sterling is another who has served Southgate well down the years but despite a late-season renaissance at Chelsea, it would be a real surprise to see his name on the list, given the depth at the manager’s disposal.

Harry Kane

Jordan Henderson

Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham look nailed-on to start, which means Southgate probably has only one midfield place up for grabs.

The former Liverpool skipper moved to Saudi Arabia for an ill-fated stint and then returned to Europe and Ajax, who finished fifth in the Netherlands, 35 points behind champions PSV Eindhoven.

Like Rashford, Henderson will be the story, no matter which way Southgate goes.

Kobbie Mainoo burst onto the scene this season and was a rare bright spot in an otherwise gloomy Man United season. He has only won two caps, in the friendlies against Brazil and Belgium in March, but performed well enough to establish himself in some eyes as the front-runner to start ahead of the likes of Conor Gallagher, Trent Alexander-Arnold and the untried Adam Wharton and Curtis Jones.

There are some who would throw Cole Palmer into the mix for this spot too in a way of ensuring Palmer, Foden, Saka and Bellingham are all in the same XI. Sadly for the dreamers, it’s unlikely Southgate is one of them.

 

Nick Pope

Barring catastrophe, Jordan Pickford will start the opening group game against Serbia on June 16, there is no doubt about that. Aaron Ramsdale has established himself as his main back-up.

However you need three keepers and the 32-year-old Newcastle stopper has returned at the perfect time.

His start on the final day against Brentford was his first since December 2 and leaves him the favourite ahead of Dean Henderson to take the third keeper slot, though don’t bet on him to add to the 10 caps he has won under Southgate since 2018 during the tournament.

Kieran Trippier

Full-backs

Let’s be honest. It’s going to be Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier, so long as they prove their fitness.

Reece James has started only five Premier League games and made 10 appearances all season. Ben Chilwell played more, but still endured an injury-plagued campaign and never rediscovered his pre-injury form.

Luke Shaw would likely start ahead of Trippier at left back if he were able to maintain fitness. That’s sadly always been a big if.

Reece James

Ivan Toney

When he returned from his FA ban with four goals in five games many talked up the Brentford striker as the leading choice to deputise for Harry Kane, should the England skipper be unavailable for any reason.

Well, a run of a dozen games without a goal since then has quietened that talk while Ollie Watkins has quietly amassed a sensational season with 19 non-penalty goals, 13 assists and a place in the Champions League.

He’s not Kane, and if Kane’s back-issue is worse than having merely carried Bayern Munich through a season of struggle almost single handedly, then England will need to play to Watkins strengths,

Expect to see Toney’s name on the long list, taking only two strikers with question marks over Kane would be too risky for Southgate, but don’t expect to see much of Toney once the real business starts.

 

England’s Group C fixtures

Sunday, June 16 – Serbia vs England (Gelsenkirchen, 8pm)

Thursday, June 20 – Denmark vs England (Frankfurt, 5pm)

Tuesday, June 25 – England vs Slovenia (Cologne, 8pm)

A reminder that the top two in each group, plus the four best third-placed teams, go through to the round of 16.

Picture of Alex Hoad

Alex Hoad

Alex has more than 15 years' experience in sports journalism and has reported on multiple Olympics, World Cups and European Championships in additional to Champions League, Europa League and domestic football.

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