England boss Gareth Southgate is considering his defensive options ahead of his side’s Euro 2020 opener against Croatia on Sunday, with Luke Shaw potentially moving into centre-back.
The Three Lions’ preparations for this summer’s tournament have been plagued by injury issues with Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson both selected despite carrying knocks, and Trent Alexander-Arnold forced to withdraw from the squad entirely after picking up an injury in the warm-up game with Austria.
Southgate’s tendency to play three centre-backs means the injury picked up by Maguire in Manchester United’s trip to Aston Villa last month is particularly concerning, and The Telegraph report that the England boss is open to experimenting with the personnel in his backline against Croatia on Sunday.
United man Shaw is being considered as an option on the left-hand side of a back three, meaning England could kick off their Euro 2020 campaign with as many as four full-backs on the pitch if Kyle Walker is chosen on the right-hand side of a back three.
Should Shaw and Walker take their place in the heart of the defence that will leave Kieran Trippier and Reece James to fight it out for a place at right wing-back, while Ben Chilwell will almost definitely start on the opposite flank.
The move may be seen as something of a gamble given the format of the European Championship group stages means a bad start could prove costly, though this wouldn’t be the first time Shaw has filled in at centre-back.
The United defender played as part of a back three on a number of occasions for United last season, while Walker appears to have settled into a role at centre-back for both club and country in recent years.
Manchester City man John Stones is a shoo-in to take his place in the starting XI regardless of whether Southgate opts for a back three or a back four, while the England boss does have other options with Conor Coady, Tyrone Mings and Ben White also waiting in the wings.