It is decision time for Gareth Southgate, with the England manager set to name a provisional squad for this summer’s European Championships today.
Southgate had been expected to name his final 26-man party for the tournament – delayed from 2020 to 2021 – but on Monday evening it was reported he would name a larger provisional group to be whittled down before the June 1 deadline.
Uefa has made Southgate’s job a little easier with their expansion from the usual 23-man parties designed to negate the impact of any Covid outbreaks during the tournament, but the Three Lions boss still has several major headaches.
Perhaps the most talked about position is right-back, where England are blessed with a plethora of talent; the likes of Kyle Walker, Reece James and Kieran Trippier having all been included in the most recent squad, while Trent Alexander-Arnold missed out.
There are injury concerns over some of Southgate’s most experienced figures, most notably Jordan Henderson and Harry Maguire, who are both in a race to be fit in time for the first game against Croatia but are still expected to be included.
Nick Pope and Kalvin Phillips are among those to have given Southgate further fitness concerns right at the end of the Premier League season, while the likes of Jack Grealish and Declan Rice have returned just in time.
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Where to watch
The announcement will be made at 1pm BST today via England’s website and social media channels, and we will be you all the names as they drop right here.
There will also be a press conference with Southgate at 2pm, and that will be televised live on Sky Sports as well as for free online via England’s YouTube channel.
Southgate: England should channel pressure
Southgate believes it is up to England as a collective to decide whether to treat public expectation as pressure or an opportunity.
“My one ambition when I was a kid was to play for England. And I know now that’s an incredibly difficult thing to do, statistically.
“So to have the opportunity to lead your country, and then into a major tournament. I’ve had the privilege to be able to do it once, and we now have a European Championship where some of our matches are at Wembley.
“So that’s quite a unique opportunity. It is an honour, and it is exciting. And of course there’s an expectation, and we can build that into pressure if we choose.
“But that’s our own decision what that feels like, that’s our own voice in our heads. I’d rather be in a role where you can make a difference, where you can drive people to achieve something we haven’t done before.
“And we’ve only been to one European semi-final as a country, never mind to a final or winning. So we’ve a chance to be the first, and that is a challenge we should embrace.”
Southgate: England must ‘dream’ of glory
Gareth Southgate has told England not to fear their ambition of winning the Euros.
“I said ahead of the World Cup in Russia, we wanted the country to have pride in the team, and I think we achieved that,” said Southgate. “Some of that is about results, and some of that is about the way the team connect with the fans.
“Now of course if you don’t win the matches then that pride isn’t there, that’s the reality. And of course now we’ve been to two semi-finals and we are as keen as everybody else to go further.
“So we understand expectations change, and we shouldn’t be afraid of saying we want to go and win. We know there’s some improvement for us to do, we’ve started to beat some of the top teams over the last couple of years. We have to do that consistently.
“And if we’re to win this tournament, the way the draw looks, we would have to do that on two or three occasions. But as a team we’ve got to take it small steps at a time.
“Qualify from the group, get that nailed from a group with three very tough games and opponents in Croatia and the Czech Republic who have beaten us in recent times. But we’ve also done the same to them.
“And we all know what the game against Scotland means to everybody. So we have to allow everybody to dream, we want to dream ourselves.
“But we’ve got to make sure we won’t just win because we’re at home, we won’t just win because we’re an exciting team. We’ve got to get all the parts right, and that’s got to be our aim.”
England preparations far from ideal
The make-up of Southgate’s group and standbys will be interesting considering a large chunk of the squad will be missing when they convene next week ahead of the friendlies against Austria and Romania in Middlesbrough.
Those involved in Saturday’s all-English Champions League final between Manchester City and Chelsea will be delayed, so too those playing for Manchester United in Wednesday’s Europa League final.
What Southgate said about expanded squads
While UEFA’s decision to increase squad sizes from 23 to 26 seems like a good idea for managers, Gareth Southgate was not keen on the concept in March – so it remains to be seen whether he will whittle his squad from the expanded number all the way down to 23, or stick with 26.
Southgate said at the time: “I know there’s some discussion about perhaps an extended number in the squad. I’m not certain I’m behind that.
“I know Covid could play a part but I think there’s a skill to picking 23.
“It means you’ve got to make good decisions and important decisions and I think some of that can be lost as you get an extended group.
“So, yeah, let’s see how that develops but I’m not 100 per cent for it, I’d have to say.”
Who will make the cut… and who will miss out?
Southgate has some big calls to make, from the number of squad members to select and dealing without some during preparations, to the widely-debated right-back conundrum and his injured players.
Trent Alexander-Arnold was the shock absentee from March’s World Cup qualification triple-header, with Southgate instead plumping for Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker and Reece James.
Liverpool team-mate Jordan Henderson provides another headache. He has not played since undergoing groin surgery in February although Reds boss Jurgen Klopp says the issue should not keep him out of the Euros.
Manchester United captain Harry Maguire’s situation is a concern after sustaining ankle ligament damage that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer expects to rule him out of Wednesday’s Europa League final against Villarreal.
Aston Villa skipper Jack Grealish completed his first full match since sustaining a shin issue in February in the season finale against Chelsea on Sunday, when Leeds’ Kalvin Phillips sustained a shoulder complaint against West Brom.
The Elland Road club said the midfielder’s injury “is currently being treated conservatively”, adding they “remain confident he will be available for Euro 2020” if selected.
Another concern is Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope. Part of the 2018 World Cup squad, he played in all three England games in March with Jordan Pickford absent but is now having minor knee surgery.
A reminder now that Gareth Southgate is expected to name an expanded provisional England squad.
PA reports that the squad which lands at 1pm BST will be larger than 26 names, and will then be whittled down ahead of the June 1 deadline.
Southgate’s decision makes sense given assessments of fitness levels following a draining season, current injuries to key players, as well as the number of players participating in the Champions League and Europa League finals later this week.
Today is the day! We will find out Gareth Southgate’s provisional Euro 2020 England squad at the very least today, with the Three Lions boss set to name an expanded team beyond the 26 which Uefa currently allows.
Breaking: Southgate to name larger ‘provisional squad’
England manager Gareth Southgate is to name a “provisional” squad for this summer’s European Championships on Tuesday, rather than the final 26-man party that had been expected.
Southgate is allowed to make changes to his squad up until Uefa’s June 1 deadline and rather than name an initial 26 at this stage, he will instead name a larger group – reportedly of at least 30 players – which will then be whittled down.
The move means Southgate will now not name his final squad until after the Champions League and Europa League finals, where a huge number of England stars are set to feature for Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United.
Better news for Southgate has been the return to fitness of Jack Grealish. The Aston Villa star has missed much of the latter part of the season with a shin problem but has been eased back into the action by Dean Smith in recent weeks and completed his first 90 minutes since his comeback in the win over Chelsea on the final day of the season.