England manager Gareth Southgate will announce his squad for March’s World Cup qualfiers against San Marino, Albania and Poland on Thursday.
This will be England’s final camp before Euro 2020 and Southgate’s last chance to meet up with his players before beginning to select his 23-man squad for this summer’s rescheduled tournament.
England will play Croatia, Scotland and the Czech Republic in Group D. All three of their games will be held at Wembley, as will the semi-finals and final.
Southgate has until 10 days before the opening game on 11 June to unveil his final squad, with pre-tournament friendlies scheduled against Austria and Romania.
Who will be on the team bus from St George’s Park to Wembley? Who can be confident of a place, who has work to do and who is an outside bet?
Here,The Independent runs the rule over the contenders…
On the plane
England’s captain and most accomplished international goal-scorer by some distance, Kane has looked back to his best at times this season. Injuries are the only concern, but if anyone’s willing to rush back and play through the pain barrier, it’s him.
After the most prolific season of his career to date last year, Sterling has been somewhat inconsistent in front of goal for Manchester City this time around. Even so, his importance to England has never come into question.
Sancho had a difficult start to the campaign with Dortmund, who have underachieved in the Bundesliga this season, but his form has picked up since Christmas. Will miss the March internationals with an ankle ligament injury.
Another player to have suffered from indifferent form this season, though there are tentative signs that Alexander-Arnold is getting back to his usual self. Whether he is suited to playing a wing-back in England’s 3-4-3 system remains an open question.
Henderson has more experience at international level than practically any other England regular and has emerged as something of a playmaker this season too, which could be useful in a midfield lacking creativity. Will miss the March internationals with a groin injury.
Maguire has quietly played his way back into form after a difficult start to the season on and off-the-pitch. Though he lacks pace, he is England’s best centre-back and his ability to carry the ball up the pitch is a bonus. Southgate sees him as the squad’s senior central defender.
A national hero for his efforts in fighting child poverty off-the-pitch, Rashford has struggled for consistency on it. Nevertheless, it is hard to see how he fails to make the final squad and he will hope to be in form by the summer.
Now clear of Harry Winks in the battle for a regular midfield spot alongside Henderson. Rice still has much to learn before he can be considered at the elite level but he has only just turned 22 and has improved over the past year.
Another Southgate favourite, Mount’s work out of possession endears him to his managers. Tuchel appears to value his abilities too. As long as he can survive Chelsea’s rotation policy, his place in the final squad appears assured.
Despite all the questions about his status as England’s No 1, Pickford’s place in the squad remains safe. The Everton goalkeeper’s ability with his feet can be overstated but it is important to Southgate and he is more adept in possession than his rivals for the spot.
All but certain to travel as Pickford’s backup but Burnley’s struggles could affect whether he gets an opportunity to oust the Everton goalkeeper. Southgate suggested that Pickford has little competition to worry about at the moment, hinting that Pope has work to do.
Since making his international debut in September, Grealish’s reputation has soared. He is widely regarded as one of the finest creative players in the Premier League. Even Southgate finally appears convinced, which should be enough to see off competition for a place.
No longer certain of a starting spot at Chelsea since Thomas Tuchel’s arrival and Luke Shaw could now challenge at international level, but left-back is this English generation’s problem position. If Southgate takes two, Chilwell is still likely to earn a spot.
Even with Grealish and Sancho’s emergence, arguably England’s most exciting new talent since the 2018 World Cup. Foden returned to the squad quickly after the disciplinary incident in Iceland, which speaks to Southgate’s faith that he can play a part at the Euros.
Despite only winning his first cap last year at 26-years-old, Mings already appears to be a player Southgate trusts. His left-footedness is no small part of his appeal as a centre-back, as is his ability to play as a more traditional left-back if necessary.
Back in the Atletico Madrid starting line-up after serving his 10-week ban for gambling offences. Southgate is still a fan, giving the Atletico Madrid full-back the captain’s armband against Wales in October. Could fill in at left wing-back too.
Calvert-Lewin leads the tightly-contested race to provide cover for Kane. The Everton striker did not sustain his excellent early season form as he suffered from losing some key team-mates to injury but there are signs of a revival.
Saka impressed when called upon during the autumn and his ability to play anywhere down the left flank is an asset, given the general lack of left-footed players. Still eligible to represent Nigeria until he plays another competitive match due to a change of Fifa’s rules.
One of the potential beneficiaries of the switch to a 3-4-3. Walker’s pace and ability to play either as a right-back or the right-sided centre-back in Southgate’s new back three offers him a route into the final squad that is not open for some of his rivals.
Easily one of England’s three best goalkeepers based on his displays on loan at Sheffield United last season but playing second fiddle to David de Gea at Manchester United could hurt his chances of a place.
On the fringes
Under consideration once again having resurrected his Manchester City career, though will have to maintain his form to hold onto his place. Stones’ revival is great news for England, who looked short on quality centre-backs in the autumn despite playing three.
Southgate said “the door is certainly open” for Shaw and a recall is a possibility again after his excellent form for United. With no genuine left-back cover for Chilwell, there is a vacancy, though it may come down to a choice between him and Saka.
Playing regularly and well for Dortmund, impressing in the Champions League knock-out stages and not even 18 until June. Bellingham’s omission from the Under-21s Euros squad was intriguing, though Covid restrictions may prevent a March call-up.
Is Bamford’s goalscoring just a product of Marcelo Bielsa’s style and system? Can it be replicated in an England shirt? Injuries to several rivals for a place up front could mean that we find out during the March internationals.
Has the J-Lingz renaissance come too late for an international return? Possibly not. Lingard was a trusted regular at the last World Cup and his work rate off-the-ball is something Southgate wants in his attacking players.
Coady seems suited to Southgate’s new three-man defence as he is used to playing in a similar system week-in and week-out at club level but Wolves have chopped and changed this season and their form has suffered, which may raise questions over his inclusion.
Highly thought of within the England set-up, as his inclusion despite being suspended for two of November’s three games proved, but James is facing stiff competition at right back and has lost his automatic starting spot since Tuchel’s arrival at Chelsea.
Keane began the season well with Everton, started both the autumn’s friendlies against Wales and the Republic of Ireland, and has carried his form through to the second-half of the season. Not always comfortable playing in a high line.
Matching Calvert-Lewin’s underlying numbers but was not starting regularly enough under Frank Lampard to find rhythm and stake his claim. An ankle injury has disrupted his minutes under Tuchel and is likely to prevent him from a March call-up.
Struggling with an injury, as he was before the November internationals. Those fitness concerns are likely to count against him in the final analysis, though not quite hitting the heights of last season for Southampton either.
Unfortunate to miss out on the November camp through injury. Phillips did well without truly excelling on his four England appearances so far and it remains to be seen whether he is suited to the new system.
Ward-Prowse’s set-piece ability offers something genuinely unique and could give him the edge over the likes of Phillips. Southampton’s slump in the second half of the season has not helped his cause, though.
A slow start to the season due to injury deprived him of a chance to stake a claim over the autumn. There might be too many established talents ahead of him, despite some impressive displays for Leicester.
Similar to his Leicester team-mate Maddison. There just is not the room to squeeze him in alongside Sancho, Sterling, Rashford, Grealish and Foden, though he has every chance of a call-up further down the line.
Work to do
The same applies to Watkins, who has quickly adapted to life in the Premier League and reached double figures for Villa already. Finishing has been an issue at times and a lack of international experience would probably cost him when it comes to the final squad.
Inclusion in Aidy Boothroyd’s squad for the Under-21 Euros group stage later this month is an indication he will have to wait for a senior return. If the Under-21s reach the knock-outs and Southgate wants him in the senior squad come June, Boothroyd will be down a player.
Hudson-Odoi is playing regularly again though often as a right wing-back and that’s one spot where England are over-subscribed. Like Greenwood, his inclusion in the Under-21 squad suggests he will be spending his summer in Slovenia.
Worked his way back into the international fold having become a regular at centre-half for Tottenham, but has now dropped out of Jose Mourinho’s starting line-up and probably needs to convince as an out-and-out defender in order to earn a finals spot.
Winks has almost been an ever-present in Southgate’s squads but a lack of playing time at Tottenham is seriously harming his chances of making the final cut. With only 10 league appearances to his name, it is hard to justify his selection ahead of immediate rivals.
Southgate likes Barkley but injuries have hampered his progress while on loan at Aston Villa. Whether he fits into the new system is a concern and he is out of form at present, though a strong end to the season could see him push past the likes of Phillips and Ward-Prowse.
Emerged as something of a utility man and may still make the squad in that capacity but many of Southgate’s bases are covered. Unlikely to make a strong case for his inclusion while part of a poor West Bromwich Albion side.
Wilson’s 10 league goals this season is a decent return but four have come from the penalty spot. Now, the Newcastle striker is out with a hamstring injury. Calvert-Lewin, Ings and Abraham all appear to be ahead of him in the queue.
Escaped Chelsea on loan during the January window in search of regular first-team football at Milan and has impressed in Serie A so far. There is an outside chance if he maintains that form, but Tomori has not been part of an England squad since late 2019.
Impressive alongside Mings at the heart of Villa’s defence this season, Konsa is a product of the same Charlton academy that Gomez came through. Southgate is keeping tabs on him while reviewing centre-back options.
Shaw’s closest contender as the Premier League’s best left-back this season, Cresswell last England appearance was as a starter in a 1-0 win over Lithuania under Southgate. Despite his form at West Ham, Chilwell, Shaw and Saka seem to be ahead of him.
Rumoured to be under consideration for the March squad after adapting to top-flight football well with Leeds. Ayling’s chances of a finals place suffer due to his lack of international experience and the competition for places at right-back.
Vardy did not announce his retirement from international football after the 2018 World Cup, instead merely ‘walking away’ from the England set-up. Southgate remains in contact and the door is open but a return appears unlikely for now.
The Liverpool defender suffered a season-ending knee injury during the November camp, putting his Euros place in serious doubt. Jurgen Klopp said recently that the tournament will probably come too soon.
A forgotten man for club and country. Alli’s last international appearance was at the Nations League finals more than two years ago but he will need to win back the confidence of Jose Mourinho before an England return is considered.
David Moyes has made the most of Antonio’s unique skill set at West Ham. Could England do the same? There is already a lot of competition up front and Antonio is thought to be considering switching allegiances to Jamaica.
Arguably the best ball-winning full-back in the country yet still uncapped at senior international level. Wan-Bissaka is an unfortunate victim of England’s right-back surplus but his limitations going forward and defending far post crosses cannot be ignored either.
The barrier to Oxlade-Chamberlain playing more regularly for club and country is the same as it ever was: fitness. After yet another stop-start year at Liverpool, it is difficult to see how he puts a run together to force his way back into Southgate’s thinking.
The Independent’s predicted Euro 2020 squad: Pickford, Pope, Henderson; Maguire, Stones, Mings, Walker; Alexander-Arnold, Trippier, Chilwell, Shaw, Saka; Henderson, Rice, Mount, Bellingham; Sancho, Foden, Sterling, Grealish, Rashford; Kane, Calvert-Lewin.