England begin their Euro 2020 campaign with a tough opening fixture against Croatia on Sunday afternoon.
On what is set to be a sweltering afternoon at Wembley, England boss Gareth Southgate knows the importance of getting off to a positive start to the tournament.
The Three Lions, who reached the 2018 World Cup semi-finals under Southgate, enter Euro 2020 among the favourites to lift the Henri Delaunay trophy on July 11. Only France have a better chance of going all the way this summer, according to the bookmakers.
With so many talented players in the squad, England fans have been discussing how Southgate will line up for the opener this weekend.
But according to The Telegraph, the England boss could spring a surprise by naming four – yes, FOUR – full-backs in his starting line-up.
Which England defenders will start vs Croatia?
It’s understood that Southgate is considering playing Manchester United’s Luke Shaw as a centre-back, rather than a left-back or left wing-back.
Southgate is practicing with a 3-4-3 and a four-man defence to find a solution in the absence of Harry Maguire, who is battling to regain full fitness.
Manchester City right-back Kyle Walker also looks set to start as a makeshift centre-back, according to the same report, alongside his club teammate John Stones.
Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell would then ‘almost certainly start’ as a left wing-back, while Atletico Madrid’s Kieran Trippier or Chelsea’s Reece James would get the nod at right wing-back.
No doubt this news will come as a slight concern to England fans. Deploying Shaw and Walker as makeshift centre-backs hardly sounds ideal on the face of it.
Who will start in midfield and attack for England vs Croatia?
Assuming The Telegraph’s information is correct, this would leave room for two central midfielders and three attackers.
West Ham’s Declan Rice looks likely to start, with Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson not fully fit, while Chelsea’s Mason Mount is also expected to be among the XI.
Manchester City’s Phil Foden could start as England’s left-sided forward ahead of Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish and Man Utd’s Marcus Rashford, with Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho on the right.
The one certainty in the attacking third of the pitch is the centre-forward position: Tottenham’s Harry Kane, winner of the World Cup Golden Boot award three years ago, will lead the line on Sunday.
Southgate will be hoping to bring Maguire back into the team for England’s second group fixture against Scotland on June 18 which, in turn, would allow the manager to select a more conventional XI.
England’s possible starting XI vs Croatia
Following The Telegraph’s report, we predict England’s XI against Croatia might look like this…
Euro 2020 predictions (The Football Terrace)