James Maddison and Jarrod Bowen in sparkling club form, Ollie Watkins and Eddie Nketiah vying to be Harry Kane’s back-up and a host of defensive options… The England squad players hoping to dislodge Southgate’s favourites ahead of Euro 2024
- England take on Australia in a Wembley friendly ahead of Italy Euro qualifier
- It offers Gareth Southgate the perfect chance to audition some Euro hopefuls
- Listen to the latest episode of Mail Sport’s podcast ‘It’s All Kicking Off!’
Gareth Southgate has pledged to give some of England’s squad players a chance to impress against Australia on Friday night.
The Three Lions boss does tend to pick from the same small pool of trusted personnel but on this occasion there really is little excuse not to rotate.
The most important players ideally need to be rested for Tuesday night’s Euro 2024 qualifier against Italy, where a win will seal England’s place in Germany next summer.
It’s also fair to say the rivalry with Australia in football isn’t quite as intense as in cricket or rugby, so no England fan is going to be too upset if they don’t win at Wembley.
‘We need to give people opportunities. We have six matches before we name a squad in all likelihood for a European Championship,’ Southgate said on Thursday.
Gareth Southgate has promised to give some squad players a chance to impress when England play Australia in a Wembley friendly on Friday night
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‘And so if people are going to have the chance to force their way into that squad, or that team, we need to play them.
‘It is an important night for a lot of players – they will recognise that.’
With that in mind, here’s a few England Euro hopefuls who’ll want to seize any opportunity they get against the Aussies.
In line to start on Friday night following an excellent start to life at Tottenham that has seen him score twice and set up five other goals in his first nine appearances.
Maddison’s England career got off to a false start when he withdrew with a camp in October 2019 through illness but was then spotted visiting a casino.
He finally got another chance against Ukraine back in March and his form now means Southgate can’t ignore him despite no shortage of competition for places in attacking areas.
If Maddison continues to shine for Spurs, there’s no reason why he couldn’t make a late run into the England team for the Euros, as Jack Grealish, Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden have done previously.
James Maddison has started life at Tottenham well and senses a chance to impress for England
It would be foolish to start talisman Harry Kane on Friday night, which offers a golden chance for one of the other centre forwards in the squad.
That comes down to Watkins or Arsenal’s Eddie Nketiah and you’d imagine the Aston Villa man will get the start.
Watkins is in good touch with four goals and four assists so far this season, including a hat-trick in the 6-1 win over Brighton witnessed in person by Southgate.
If he can add to the two England goals he already has, Watkins should move ahead of Nketiah, Callum Wilson and Ivan Toney as Kane’s understudy for the Euros.
Ollie Watkins (left) netted a hat-trick for Aston Villa against Brighton in front of Southgate
The West Ham winger is another in very good form pushing for a starting place against Australia.
With five goals and two assists to his credit in nine outings this season, Bowen certainly has a strong claim to be given an audition by Southgate.
Amid stiff competition, he has been out of the England pictures since last year’s disastrous Nations League campaign, which saw the team relegated.
But with Saka forced out through injury, Bowen has the perfect opportunity to show what he can do.
West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen has also enjoyed an impressive opening to the season
Colwill was called up for last month’s matches against Ukraine and Scotland but didn’t get on the pitch.
With regular left-backs Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell out injured, it was a no-brainer to call up someone who has played that position regularly for Chelsea this season.
Of course, that doesn’t ensure Colwill a start but you’d hope he’ll get at least some opportunity to show what he can do on Friday night.
But if Shaw and Chilwell are fit for the Euros, he’ll be hard pushed to get a place in the squad.
Levi Colwill will be hoping to make his England debut after being called up as left-back cover
Another called up to the senior squad for the first time last month, Nketiah didn’t make the matchday squad for the Ukraine match and was an unused substitute at Hampden Park.
Ghana are reportedly still trying to gain the 24-year-old Arsenal striker’s allegiance but if Southgate brings him on against Australia it’ll be a big step towards getting him to commit to the Three Lions.
He’s scored twice in the Premier League so far this season, starting seven of Arsenal’s eight games, but really needs to make an impact on his England debut to become Kane’s understudy.
Arsenal forward Eddie Nketiah is eager to make his first England appearance on Friday
Dunk was solid as a rock in England’s 3-1 win over Scotland last month, proving to Southgate he can be a reliable performer.
While Harry Maguire is the ultimate Southgate favourite, his place may become less secure if he doesn’t force his way back into the Manchester United team.
So could Brighton man Dunk form a partnership with John Stones ahead of the Euros?
He’ll certainly want to continue the momentum from that Hampden Park performance with another run-out on Friday night.
Lewis Dunk looked solid at the back for England during last month’s friendly win over Scotland
Tomori has definitely needed to be patient when it comes to England chances. The AC Milan centre-half made his debut in Kosovo back in November 2019 and has only played twice more since then.
He didn’t make an England squad for over a year until last month, but then didn’t play a single minute of the double-header against Ukraine and Scotland.
It seems Tomori is behind Maguire, Stones, Marc Guehi and probably now Dunk too in the central defensive positions.
He’ll need a good season with Milan – who certainly missed him when he was suspended for the 5-1 derby loss to Inter – and then a bit of luck to make the Euros side.
Fikayo Tomori will be hoping Champions League involvement with AC Milan will lead to more opportunities in the England defence
Guehi has moved into favour with Southgate – he completed the qualifiers against Malta and Ukraine having been overlooked for last year’s World Cup.
The Crystal Palace defender also started against Scotland alongside Dunk, before Maguire replaced him at half-time. England looked watertight when he was on the pitch.
With that in mind, Southgate made decide on Friday he already knows what Guehi, 23, can do.
But as someone actually playing regularly for their club, he will hope to dislodge Maguire in Southgate’s Euro XI.
Marc Guehi celebrates after Crystal Palace beat Manchester United at Old Trafford last month
So much has been said and written about Ramsdale losing his Arsenal starting place to David Raya – but what about his England prospects?
Jordan Pickford has always been Southgate’s No 1 pick with Ramsdale usually watching on from the subs bench.
But he did play in the Scotland friendly and didn’t do a great deal wrong in the 3-1 win.
His problem could be a lack of action for his club, further snuffing out his Euro chances. But Pickford is likely to be rested against Australia, so Ramsdale could well take the gloves.
Aaron Ramsdale celebrates after England scored at Hampden Park during September’s clash
Alternatively, Johnstone could be given a run-out. He hasn’t played for England since the 5-0 win away to Andorra in World Cup qualifying in October 2021.
The 30-year-old has been an ever-present in the Premier League for Palace so far this season and it may be time for Southgate to see what he can offer England.
But the trio of Pickford, Ramsdale and Johnstone looks fairly secure for next summer’s squad.
Sam Johnstone will be hoping it’s his turn to have an England audition on Friday evening
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