Credit Photo - @FA
England roll into the first ever UEFA Nations League Finals on the back of a very successful and productive twelve months.
Gareth Southgates’ side reached the semi final stage of the 2018 World Cup before seeing off Spain and Croatia to qualify for the upcoming mini – tournament in Portugal.
The Three Lions will now head into their semi final showdown against The Netherlands in Guimaraes on June 6th.
Looking at how they may setup this summer, Southgate has switched from the 5-3-2 formation used at the last World Cup to a more dynamic 4-3-3, much suited to the players at his disposal.
This allows full backs Kyle Walker (Man City)/ Trent Alexander Arnold (Liverpool) and Danny Rose (Tottenham)/ Ben Chilwell (Leicester) to get forward to provide width and offensive options.
Leicesters’ Harry Maguire is likely to start at centre back, where he could be joined by fit again Joe Gomez (Liverpool) as John Stones has been struggling for game time at Manchester City recently.
The midfield three could include Liverpool’s all action Jordan Henderson and Ross Barkley (Chelsea), who has performed very well in an England shirt of late.
With Declan Rice having to switched his allegiance to England (from ROI), the West Ham man could we’ll find himself in the holding role in place of regular incumbent Eric Dier (Tottenham).
A setback for Southgate is the recent injury suffered by in form Chelsea midfield man Ruben Loftus Cheek, a player who could have made a big impact this summer.
England have a multitude of options at the top end, with Tottenham striker and talisman Harry Kane returning to fitness and likely to start.
In the wider forward areas, they have the options of the superb Raheem Sterling (Man City), tricky, explosive Marcus Rashford (Man Utd) and talented Dortmund youngster Jadon Sancho.
Added to these is Dele Alli of Tottenham, who floats around the forward areas, getting in between the lines and into dangerous positions.
Another man unfortunately missing through injury is the highly talented and skillful Callum Hudson Odoi (Chelsea). England will miss his effervescent qualities in Portugal.
A feature of England’s play to look for is the ability of Harry Kane to drop into a deeper role and play through balls to the onrushing and speedy wider forwards.
England head into the tournament as 3/1 second favourites, behind hosts Portugal and marginally ahead of their semi final opponents The Netherlands.
Truth be told though, while Switzerland will be strong outsiders, there is not much at all between the other finalists Portugal, The Netherlands and England.
They will all fancy their chances and be looking to head into a summer break on the back of lifting a trophy for their country.
By Chris Kelly