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Will England's Young Three Lions Step Up In Tricky UEFA Nations League Clashes?

Will England's Young Three Lions Step Up In Tricky UEFA Nations League Clashes?
Thursday,October 11,2018

England are back in action this weekend with UEFA Nations League A matches against Croatia and Spain. It’s a tough task for The Three Lions, facing two of the world’s top 10 ranked teams away from home in the space of three days. First up is a trip to Croatia on Friday, which will be behind closed doors as past punishment for crowd issues, before Gareth Southgate’s men travel to Spain just three days later.


Injuries have allowed new faces to be drafted in, with England’s squad having a fresh and exciting look to it. But with international points to play for and relegation to try and avoid, will Southgate be brave enough to blood them over the next few days? Here’s a few things to look out for in the two Nations League encounters:


Will fresh faces be given a chance? England’s 25 man squad features seven uncapped players following Lewis Dunk’s call-up, with 12 of the 25 having made 10 or fewer appearances for the Three Lions. With Southgate keen to involve young blood, maybe it could be a blessing in disguise that the likes of Jesse Lingard and Dele Alli miss out through injury, but so too do Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Luke Shaw who have impressed in recent England matches.



Lingard and Alli hardly set the World Cup on fire, meaning there are opportunities for James Maddison, Mason Mount and Jayden Sancho to stake their claim for more regular action.



Leicester’s Maddison has been one of the stand out performers in the Premier League this season, making the step up seamlessly after signing from Norwich in the summer. The 21-year-old was nominated for October’s player of the month and has three goals and two assists to his name so far this season. The Coventry youth graduate has been thriving in the number 10 role, linking midfield with attack and looking threatening with his creative spark. With England’s new found 3-1-4-2 system, he could easily slot into one of the roles vacated by Lingard and Alli, even if that means he might have to be deployed a tad deeper.



At just 19, Mason Mount is another highly thought of talent, who is exelling on loan from Chelsea at Derby. It seems as if his call-up was more about experience in and around the team than minutes on the pitch, but it won’t be too long before he becomes a regular with England.


18-year-old Jayden Sancho has been fast tracked to the senior squad after impressive performances for Borussia Dortmund so far this season. Despite making the majority of his appearances from the bench, Sancho has recorded more assists in all competitions than any other player across Europe’s top five leagues this campaign. He can score and create which is the perfect combination and why he’s so highly rated. A left winger by trade, it will be interesting to see how’s he’s used by the Three Lions, considering the narrow formation. He’s been an impact player for Dortmund which could be how he starts life for England, although with Luke Shaw’s withdrawal, will Southgate be tempted to draft Sancho at left wing back?


The obvious choice to replace Shaw would’ve been Danny Rose, but he’s also withdrawn through injury, leaving Leicester’s young Ben Chilwell as the front runner at left wing back. The 21-year-old is another one with a bright future and already has nearly 50 Premier League appearances under his belt. The wing back berth should suit his strengths which is getting forward as much as possible, so it will be interesting to see if he can make the most of this possible opportunity.


Do Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling fit back in? Sterling’s place in the starting XI must be hanging by a thread after Marcus Rashford made the most of his opportunity last time out. Rashford replaced Sterling in the 2-1 defeat to Spain and marked it with a goal, and also got on the scoresheet against Switzerland. Sterling on the other hand is without an international goal for three years and looked out of his depth in a front two during the World Cup. Rashford should keep his spot, while Sterling isn’t really suited for a more central position that Dele Alli has taken up. If Southgate is desperate to keep him in the team, there’s a spot at left wing back up for grabs but that would surely be a last resort.


Barkley has impressed for Chelsea this season whenever he’s got a chance, scoring and assisting in their 3-0 win against Southampton last weekend. He’s been absent from the national side for two and a half years, and not only is more than an adequate replacement for Jesse Lingard, but a couple of decent performances would make it hard for the Man Utd man to earn his way back in. It’s a big week for Barkley, but will he finally realise his talent which we’ve been waiting so patiently to come to fruition?



Can England avoid relegation? The Nations League has brought the novel idea of promotion and relegation to international football, which England could be on the wrong side of at the conclusion of these two games. The Three Lions are just ahead of Croatia on goal difference after a game played, but will be struggling if they fall to defeat in Rijeka and relegation would be close to being confirmed if they fail to beat Spain with just a match remaining in November. It will be a tough ask for the young Lions against two well established international sides but with qualification to Euro 2020 having no real bearing on the outcome, seeing how the young talent perform on a pressure stage against world class opposition should be the biggest aim.



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