Harry Maguire and Jude Bellingham are both set to start for England on Friday against Italy.
Maguire hasn’t started a Premier League game for Manchester United in the past six weeks but is still seen by Gareth Southgate as a key leader in the England defence.
The England manager, however, is likely to provide Maguire with additional cover and start with three centre-backs at the San Siro.
With Kalvin Phillips due for shoulder surgery and Jordan Henderson still recovering from a hamstring strain, Bellingham will have the chance to impress in the Nations League tonight alongside Declan Rice.
The 19-year-old has been in exceptional form in Germany and has started all 10 games for Borussia Dortmund this season in the Bundesliga, Champions League and German Cup.
Henderson is ahead of his recovery from a strained hamstring, and although he won’t feature against Italy, Southgate will hope he will be fit enough to play Germany at Wembley on Monday.
Brentford striker Ivan Toney is not in the matchday squad along with Ben Chilwell, Marc Guehi, suspended John Stones and Henderson.
Analysis: Bellingham’s form demanded a starting spot
Sky Sports News senior reporter Rob Dorsett:
“It would be a big moment for Bellingham. It would only be his fifth start for England, but a 16th cap, which is extraordinary when you consider he is only 19. He is involved with England since he was 17 – when he was first called up under Southgate.
“His influence, ability and confidence have grown over the past two years, both for Borussia Dortmund and for England.
“His form for Dortmund requires him to start tonight, truth be told. He has played more games this season than any other player in this England team – 10 games in the Bundesliga, Champions League and German Cup He started every game for Dortmund and scored three goals.
“When you consider that Kalvin Phillips has retired from this team and is about to have shoulder surgery, Jordan Henderson is on this team but is recovering from a hamstring strain, I think it looked increasingly likely that Bellingham would get his chance.
“Starting Maguire, however, is a controversial call given his lack of football with Manchester United.”
Southgate ‘supports Maguire’
The Guardian’s football correspondent in Manchester, Jamie Jackson, told Sky Sports:
“It’s no surprise to see Gareth Southgate backing Harry Maguire as he’s been flawless for England.
“He was part of the team that took England to the semi-finals of the World Cup and the final of the European Championship.
“He lost his place at Manchester United. It was a big call from Erik ten Hag but that’s not too surprising. I thought it would be Raphael Varane and Lisandro Martinez as the first choice.
“Southgate says everything is fine as there are only a few games left after pre-season. He said it could become a problem if he doesn’t have a lot of playing time between now and the World Cup.
“But I don’t see him coming back to the team. With that three-man defense that Gareth likes to play, I still think that even if Maguire doesn’t come back to the United side, I feel he will be the first choice for the Cup. of the world.”
State of play of the League of Nations: England in difficulty?
When A3 has been drawn, Hungary quickly emerged as the favorites to finish bottom of this highly competitive group, but Marco Rossi’s side have picked up seven points from their first four games and currently sit top of the table.
Hungary’s most recent game saw them claim a shock 4-0 win England at Wembley in June. Their match against Germany in Leipzig on Friday will be crucial, with the winners knowing that another win on Monday’s final matchday will guarantee them a place in the final.
Italy are just two points behind Hungary and face them in Budapest next week, meaning the European champions are still in contention in Group A3.
Group A3: remaining fixtures
- Germany vs Hungary – Leipzig, Friday 23 September
- Italy v England – Milan, Friday 23 September
- England v Germany – Wembley, Monday 26 September
- Hungary vs Italy – Budapest, Monday 26 September
The only team that cannot reach the final is England, who are winless and face a difficult task to avoid the ignominy of relegation to League B for the first time.
Loss to Italy on Friday will confirm relegation for Gareth Southgate’s side, who realistically must win in Milan and at home to Germany on Monday if they are to stay in place.
England World Cup Group B schedule
21 November : Iran (Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan) – kick off 1pm
November 25: UNITED STATES (Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor) – kick off 7pm
November 29: Wales (Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan) – kick off 7pm
Choose your English starting XI for the 2022 World Cup
Gareth Southgate has revealed his final England squad ahead of the World Cup – but who would make your starting XI?
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