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Three issues England boss Gareth Southgate must deal with before the World Cup

Three issues England boss Gareth Southgate must deal with before the World Cup

Gareth Southgate has a lot on his plate before taking England to the World Cup.

The Three Lions face Germany tonight in their final match before heading to Qatar in under two months’ time, with the Nations League finale at Wembley unlikely to provide definitive answers to an array of questions.

Here are three issues to contend with before kick-off in Qatar...

Finding a partner for Rice

Gareth Southgate has admitted that Kalvin Phillips’ chances of returning to fitness in time for the World Cup are “very tight”, leaving a potential hole in the midfield next to Declan Rice.

The manager accepts that England lack a deep-lying playmaker in the mould of Germany’s Joshua Kimmich, but Jude Bellingham has other qualities and offers more attacking threat than Phillips.

Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson is expected to be given the nod next to the teenager tonight, while James Ward-Prowse remains in Southgate’s thinking despite being omitted from the 23-man squad at Wembley.

Decide on wing-backs

 (The FA via Getty Images)
(The FA via Getty Images)

Southgate does not appear to trust Trent Alexander-Arnold, who has been left out of the squad again, raising the question of why the manager picked four right-backs.

With Kyle Walker set for a central-defensive role, Kieran Trippier and Reece James are expected to battle it out to be the right wing-back, while there is also competition on the left.

Bukayo Saka, usually a winger for Arsenal, may be used there against lesser teams but Luke Shaw or Ben Chilwell remain more realistic options for the big games in Qatar.

Rashford recall?

Marcus Rashford missed out on this squad through injury, and his last appearance for England remains the 1-1 draw with Italy in July 2021.

It would now be a surprise if Southgate recalls the Manchester United forward for Qatar after such a long absence but England are badly short of attacking spark, goals, and a direct forward who can get behind defences.

Rashford offers these qualities and has appeared to turn a corner since Erik ten Hag moved to Old Trafford in the summer. If he can remain fit and firing, recalling Rashford may prove to be one of Southgate’s toughest calls this winter.