England’s journey to Euro 2024 kicks off on Thursday when they travel to Naples to face reigning champions Italy in a repeat of the 2021 final.
Gareth Southgate is under pressure to get England back to their best after a disastrous Nations League campaign and an underwhelming World Cup showing, and to make his job even harder, a few key players have been forced to pull out through injury.
Here’s the lineup Southgate could go for.
GK: Jordan Pickford – Calls for Nick Pope to take this spot have died down in recent weeks but the Newcastle stopper is injured anyway so Pickford keeps his spot regardless.
CB: Kyle Walker – Southgate defended his right to call Walker up to the squad and, with the Manchester City defender not expected to face any police action over allegations of indecent exposure, a start seems likely.
CB: John Stones – City teammate Stones is only recently back from injury and will be looking to rediscover his impressive form as soon as possible.
CB: Harry Maguire – Maguire remains a favourite of Southgate despite his limited role at club level.
RM: Reece James – Losing James for the World Cup was a major blow for England, but the Chelsea man is back and raring to go now.
CM: Declan Rice – The first half of England’s in-demand midfield, Rice will be keen for a break from club football after a tricky season with West Ham.
CM: Jude Bellingham – Bellingham is used to the spotlight but more eyes than ever will be on the teenager as the transfer rumours begin ramping up.
LM: Luke Shaw – Ben Chilwell is excellent competition for Shaw, whose sensational season for Manchester United makes him worthy of retaining his starting spot.
RW: Bukayo Saka – Saka has gone from strength to strength since missing the decisive penalty in the Euro 2020 final. He’s one of the most dangerous players around right now.
ST: Harry Kane – Kane needs just one goal to cement his legacy as England’s all-time leading goalscorer. He’s currently tied with Wayne Rooney on 53.
LW: Jack Grealish – Grealish has been excellent for City this season and deserves the chance to take that form over to the international stage.