Gareth Southgate has named his 23-man squad for this summer’s World Cup tournament in Russia.
It is a group full of promise rather than experience, with plenty of big-name players overlooked.
Here, we predict Southgate’s starting line-up for England’s opening Group G game against Tunisia in Volgograd on Monday June 18.
Pickford is Southgate’s pick
Southgate has turned to the next generation in his bid to build a squad that can mount a serious challenge in future major tournaments, with Joe Hart omitted from the squad.
Jordan Pickford is expected to be first-choice in Russia after strengthening his case to become England’s number one since joining Everton for £30million from Sunderland last summer.
It is Pickford’s distribution which sets him apart from his rivals. Stoke’s Jack Butland is likely to be his deputy, despite conceding the joint-most goals by a goalkeeper in the Premier League this season, with Burnley’s Nick Pope providing further back-up.
Cahill gets nod at heart of defence
Gary Cahill was left out of Southgate’s previous squad, but his seven appearances at major international tournaments provides much-needed experience.
The most-capped player in the England squad, Cahill will line-up alongside John Stones and Tottenham’s Kyle Walker at the heart of a five-man defence ahead of Manchester United’s Phil Jones. Those three will be utilised in a central back three.
Jones’ club-mate Ashley Young may get the nod over Tottenham’s Danny Rose for the left wing-back spot against Tunisia, with Kieran Trippier lining up outside Walker on the right.
Henderson can be ‘Captain Fantastic’
Jordon Henderson is hoping to be a Champions League winner by the time he boards the plane to Russia and could be handed the captain’s armband.
Henderson led England in assists in the qualifying tournament and has turned in some outstanding displays in big matches for Liverpool this season.
He will be supported in central midfield by an established leader in Tottenham’s Eric Dier, whose vocal approach will be invaluable.
Fluidity key to bold formation
Southgate will go with a bold 5-2-3 formation in the opening match, but it allows for flexibility with Raheem Sterling and Dele Alli on the flanks and is by no means gung-ho.
Tottenham’s Harry Kane will relish shouldering the scoring burden after missing out on the Golden Boot this season, despite scoring 30 Premier League goals for the first time.
Sterling is vastly improved under Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola and one of the few current England players who can be described as world class, while Alli has the potential to hit the same heights. His understanding with Kane is crucial.
Loftus-Cheek is ace up the sleeve
Should England mis-fire against Tunisia, Southgate has options to make changes for the following group games against Panama and Belgium.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek caught the eye on his international debut against Germany in November and could emerge as a midfield force in Russia, while the versatile Fabian Delph has proved a class act for Manchester City this season.
Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford – a rookie in France two years ago but now an established member of the squad – and Leicester livewire Jamie Vardy will be ready to answer the call if Southgate needs to shake things up.