England face Wales tonight in an all British clash to conclude the group stage of the 2022 World Cup. Gareth Southgate will be hoping to see a better performance than in the last game against the USA, which ended as a goalless draw.
Barring a catastrophic collapse which would involve bottom of the group Wales winning by four goals, England will advance to the last 16 of the tournament. For this reason, tonight’s game is seen as a good chance to rest a few players ahead of the knockout stages, and Southgate is expected to make changes to the lineup that started the previous two games against Iran and the USA.
With the fans wanting to see a lineup with more attacking intent against a poor Wales side, who could we expect to feature tonight?
There have been reports overnight suggesting that ex-Sunderland midfielder Jordan Henderson is set to start tonight. This news has frustrated fans that want to see more attack-minded players on show, but if Henderson replaces Declan Rice instead of Jude Bellingham, this change should not hinder England’s attacking prowess. Henderson may provide that extra bite in midfield that is often required in derby games.
As with Henderson, overnight reports have suggested that Walker is expected to start tonight, meaning Newcastle United man Kieran Trippier may be rested ahead of the last 16. However, we have seen Trippier play as a left-back under Southgate in previous major tournaments so there is a chance that he starts on the left hand side and Luke Shaw gets a rest instead with him being England’s only left-footed defensive option. Southgate has also used Walker on the right side of a back three in previous tournaments, so he is one that could benefit if Southgate decides to revert to this system.
With goalkeepers exerting far less energy than outfield players, there is less of a requirement to rotate them for fitness reasons. Newcastle United stopper Nick Pope is not expected to make a first World Cup appearance, with ex-Sunderland man Jordan Pickford expected to keep his place as Southgate’s number one.
With Harry Kane picking up a knock in the opener against Iran, some anticipated that Newcastle striker Callum Wilson may start at least one of the group games. However, Kane was able to play 90 minutes against the USA and he is expected to start again tonight against Wales, which would mean no start for Wilson. If England find themselves in a comfortable position against Wales, Wilson should feature from the bench like he did against Iran, and he will be hoping to score his first World Cup goal.
Phil Foden has been the most talked about England player since failing to appear in the goalless draw against the USA. Fans have been left perplexed as to why the Man City star was not used in a game that was short of quality, and many are hoping to see him feature tonight. Foden has a good chance of a start – most likely in place of Bukayo Saka – after Southgate said “he’s going to play a big part in this tournament.”
After some strong appearances for Manchester United and a well taken goal against Iran, Southgate has been full of praise for Marcus Rashford. While Raheem Sterling may be one of those that keep their place in the starting line-up, the in-form United man is certainly in contention for a start tonight, or at least some more minutes from the bench.
Similarly to Rashford, Grealish also impressed from the bench against Iran, notching his first World Cup goal. Grealish seems to have turned his England career around after previously being out of favour with Southgate, and he is also in contention to start in the front three tonight along with Rashford and Manchester City teammate Foden.
Another name on the fans’ lips after the poor attacking display against the USA, the Liverpool man has received heavy criticism for his defensive capabilities this season, but many would like to see him given a chance in this England team due to his unique attacking capabilities for a full-back. Alexander-Arnold appeared once in the 2018 World Cup but has since been out of favour with Southgate, and Kyle Walker is expected to start at right-back to deal with the pacy Dan James.
Ben White has been in superb form for table-topping Arsenal this season playing as a makeshift right-back, but with England’s abundance of options in this area, any minutes he plays this tournament will most likely be at centre-back. Southgate is expected to stick with his trusted central pairing of John Stones and Harry Maguire meaning White will probably miss out, but if Southgate decides to test out his five at the back system, White is one that may be called upon.
Possible line-up: Pickford, Walker, Stones, Maguire, Shaw; Rice, Henderson, Bellingham, Rashford, Foden, Kane.