It’s that time again. After another breathless weekend of action in the Premier League and the small matter of deadline day now behind us, attention turns to international football.
Gareth Southgate’s England side have two important games against Belgium and Denmark to play as they look to take control of their Nations League group. But before then, the Three Lions welcome Ryan Giggs’ Wales to Wembley on Thursday for a friendly – if we can actually call it that.
With a larger than usual squad to choose from this time around, we take a look at the lineup that should start against Wales…
Dean Henderson (GK) – Another weekend of football, another Jordan Pickford error. The Everton shot-stopper has been given countless opportunities, but with both Henderson and Nick Pope impressing, Southgate should use Thursday’s game to give one of them a chance. Henderson has only featured in the cup so far for Manchester United in 2019/20, but has been assured in his work and is deserving of the chance to start in goal for the Three Lions.
Joe Gomez (CB) – Put in an extremely shaky performance for Liverpool last time out as they were demolished 7-2 by Aston Villa. But Gomez’s quality is undoubted and he will be one of the players to benefit if Southgate opts to go with three at the back, as he can step out of defence and help build attacks.
Michael Keane (CB) – What a start to the season Everton are enjoying, eh? But with the attackers dominating the headlines, the performances of the likes of Keane have gone somewhat under the radar so far. Playing with confidence and authority, Keane will be looking to carry this form with him while on international duty.
Harry Maguire (CB) – Back in the England set-up once again, Maguire could be recalled to the starting lineup in the first game. It will be a chance for the defender to not only prove his worth to Southgate, but also to regain some confidence after United’s humiliating defeat to Tottenham. A chance to play again on the international stage could be just what Maguire needs after a tough start to the campaign.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (RWB) – Look, Alexander-Arnold is one of the most dangerous right backs when going forward, but there is no ignoring the fact that he is being found out defensively. In fact, seven of the 11 goals Liverpool have conceded so far this season have come down Trent’s side. But as a wing back, he will have the freedom to get forward and support attacks, without leaving the defence completely exposed.
Kalvin Phillips (CM) – While Phillips did endure a difficult debut for England during the last round of international fixtures, expect Southgate to keep his faith in him as he looks to solidify the midfield. As well as reading the game and nipping in to win the ball back for his side, Phillips will be looking to dictate the game more with his range of passing this time around.
Declan Rice (CM) – So much more than just a defensive midfielder, Rice has taken his game to new heights and is deserving of his place in the England starting lineup. With Phillips next to him, Rice will also have the freedom to carry the ball forward and break the lines.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles (LWB) – With Ben Chilwell ruled out, Southgate could hand Maitland-Niles his first start for England. More comfortable on the left than Kieran Trippier, who was often left confused in an unnatural position, Maitland-Niles will be able to get forward and provide width down the left. As he has shown at club level, he has the intelligence to step infield and find pockets of space to receive the ball and work in.
Harvey Barnes (RW) – Barnes isn’t the complete player just yet, but he is continuing to develop and improve with each week. It’s one thing to have the pace to frighten defenders, but it’s another thing altogether knowing how to utilise this pace and which runs to make. Timing his runs to perfection, Barnes has the ability to break away behind an opposition’s defence. He also possesses the quality to pick out his striker with a pinpoint cross, which a certain someone may benefit from on Thursday….
Dominic Calvert-Lewin (ST) – Nine goals in six games and two hat-tricks already, Calvert-Lewin is loving life this season at Everton. Sure, he may not score the most spectacular goals, but it’s his reading of the game and sense of awareness that allows him to pick up the positions in the box where he will be able to find the back of the net consistently. The striker has worked tirelessly to reach this stage, and he will be looking to continue this form if he is handed his debut on Thursday.
Jack Grealish (LW) – With both Rice and Phillips in midfield, Grealish could be just the man to create openings and unlock the Wales defence. For whatever reason, Southgate seems to not be Grealish’s biggest fan, but after an outstanding start to the season, the boss must give him the chance to prove his worth on the international stage. After all, how many players can say they scored twice and managed three assists in one game against Liverpool?