England’s World Cup squad: Predicting the 26 players Gareth Southgate will name

England manager Gareth Southgate at Three Lions training

England's spot at the World Cup next year is not yet 100% secure but, barring an unprecedented disaster in their final two qualifiers against Albania and San Marino, they will be on the plane to Qatar.

Gareth Southgate has led his nation to three semi-finals - if you count the UEFA Nations League - and one final, making the 51-year-old one of the most successful England managers of all time. In Qatar, though, many are desperate for the Three Lions to make the next step and grab some silverware

At this point, there are plenty of places up for grabs in Southgate's final 26-man squad, but we'll take a stab at predicting it anyway!

Goalkeepers:

Jordan Pickford, Everton
Nick Pope, Burnley
Aaron Ramsdale, Arsenal

As Southgate's number one for both the run to the World Cup semi-finals in Russia and the Euro 2020 final, Pickford is a dead-cert to be included next November. There aren't a plethora of English goalkeepers available at the moment, but Nick Pope has impressed recently for Burnley, as has Aaron Ramsdale since making the move to the Emirates Stadium from Sheffield United.

Sam Johnstone is an outsider for a spot, although playing below the Premier League could work against him.

Aaron Ramsdale celebrates at Arsenal

Defenders:

John Stones, Manchester City
Kyle Walker, Manchester City
Harry Maguire, Manchester United
Luke Shaw, Manchester United
Reece James, Chelsea
Ben Chilwell, Chelsea
Fikayo Tomori, AC Milan
Trent Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool
Conor Coady, Wolves

AC Milan's Fikayo Tomori applauds the fans

Expect the majority of the usual suspects to be named amongst the final 26. Kyle Walker, Reece James, and Trent Alexander-Arnold have all impressed this campaign and, although Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw have been part of an underwhelming Manchester United side and John Stones has barely featured for Manchester City, Southgate has shown he tends to rely on all three.

Ben Chilwell and Conor Coady are likely to play back-up roles, leaving Fikayo Tomori as the surprise inclusion. If AC Milan keep up their impressive defensive form, however – only Napoli have conceded less in Serie A this term – he could even push for a place in the starting XI.

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ENTER GIVEAWAY

Midfielders:

Kalvin Phillips in action for Leeds United

With so many attacking options to choose from, as well as Southgate's tendency to play with just two central/defensive midfielders, the middle of the park could be the least-represented area of the squad. Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips were vital members of England's run to Wembley in the summer and, even though Phillips' Leeds are struggling at the moment, the boss knows what to expect from him.

Jordan Henderson and Jude Bellingham will represent different ends of the age scale, while guaranteed starter Mason Mount and James Ward-Prowse should also board the flight. The unexpected traveller here could be Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who has been handed a lifeline at Chelsea by Thomas Tuchel and grabbed it with both hands.

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Forwards:

Harry Kane, Tottenham
Raheem Sterling, Manchester City
Phil Foden Manchester City
Jack Grealish, Manchester City
Bukayo Saka, Arsenal
Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Everton
Marcus Rashford, Manchester United

Bukayo Saka celebrates scoring for Arsenal

As England captain and his country's top goalscorer amongst active players, Harry Kane will arguably be the first name on the teamsheet in the Middle East regardless of his Spurs form. Raheem Sterling is not far behind in terms of importance, as he showed with a marvelous Euro 2020 campaign. Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Bukayo Saka, and Marcus Rashford are all dangerous players and will give Southgate plenty of attacking threat.

Kane's back-up could well be Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who played the same role at the Euros. Currently out injured with a fractured toe, the Everton forward offers an aerial ability unlike anyone else domestically and could therefore be the perfect foil.

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Jordan Pickford began his career at which club?

So, there you have it. Of course, there is still a fair way to go before Southgate needs to name his final list, and plenty could change between now and then. However, we think this squad could have a real go at bringing the trophy home after 56 years of hurt. No more need for dreaming...

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