With less than 50 days before the 2018 World Cup gets underway, Gareth Southgate will have a rough idea what his starting line-up will look like for England’s opening match against Tunisia on June 18.
However, the England manager can be forgiven if he’s yet to make a final decision over his goalkeeper.
England are not currently blessed with a world-class ‘keeper and deciding who should be the number one in Russia this summer must be keeping Southgate awake at night.
In the most recent friendlies, against the Netherlands and Italy, Everton’s Jordan Pickford (24) and Stoke City’s Jack Butland (25) played the full 90 minutes respectively.
But neither keeper has played at a major tournament before and both have conceded a lot of goals in the Premier League with their club sides this season.
But there’s a chance that Southgate will instead call on West Ham’s Joe Hart, who has endured a dismal couple of years but boasts a vast amount of experience.
Hart has played at three major tournaments with England and, crucially, is a leader on the pitch and inside the dressing room.
Barton knows who should be England's No. 1
However, some England fans believe Hart should be left at home and would rather see Burnley’s Nick Pope in the 23-man squad instead.
The 26-year-old has been in terrific form this season and is one of the key reasons why Sean Dyche’s side currently sit seventh in the Premier League table.
Joey Barton, who will take charge of Fleetwood Town this summer, briefly trained alongside Pope when he was a Burnley player and was very impressed with what he saw.
So impressed, in fact, that Barton is convinced Pope should be England’s No. 1 at the World Cup.
Pope impressed Barton in training
"Nick Pope should be England No 1 for me," he told Keith Andrews for Off The Ball. "I've seen him in training daily. In terms of shot-stopping ability, I think, you'd do well to better than him. He is that good."
"I saw him obviously six months before everyone's seeing what they're seeing now and training every day," he added. "It didn't surprise me. Some people, you've played with them and they're brilliant in training and then they don't really do it in games because of the pressure. But I've seen [Pope] do it in training." (Skip to 7:30 in the video).
It’s a massive shout from Barton, although Pope has to be in the conversation following his eye-catching performances this season.
England fans who have watched him closely over the past six or seven months would surely have Pope in the 23-man squad over Hart, whose confidence is shot to pieces.
But Southgate and his coaching staff will ultimately have the final say - and in order to ensure England go as far as possible in the tournament, they must get the decision right.
England are currently 18/1 outsiders to win the World Cup, behind favourites Brazil, Germany, France, Spain, Argentina and Group G rivals Belgium.
Who should be England’s No. 1 in Russia? Have your say by leaving a comment below.
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