In little over two weeks time international football returns as Euro 2020 qualification begins. England will take on the Czech Republic and Montenegro, but which players have impressed enough to be added to Gareth Southgate’s expected England squad?
Tom Heaton (Burnley)
Having seen off one England goalkeeper to regain the number one spot at Burnley could Heaton win back his place in the England squad? Burnley’s improvement has certainly coincided with Heaton’s recall despite only keeping 2 clean sheets, but Heaton’s presence has brought stability to Burnley’s back line. Jordan Pickford has been in uncertain form for Everton but it’s unlikely his place is under threat for now at least. But behind Pickford there’s not a lot with Jack Butland stuck in the Championship whilst both Marcus Bettinelli and Alex McCarthy have lost their first team places. Heaton’s return to form and fitness should be enough for him to make the England squad this month.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Crystal Palace)
Wan-Bissaka is a contender for Young Player of the Year, but has the misfortune to play the position where England’s talent pool runs deepest. The Crystal Palace right back has been one of the Premier League’s most consistently strong defenders this season and is a key player in Aidy Boothroyd’s Under 21 side. But England already have 3 right backs in Kyle Walker, Kieron Trippier and Trent Alexander-Arnold and all have performed well for England this season. Wan-Bissaka is certain to spend the summer with the Under 21s in Italy playing the Euros rather than with the seniors in Portugal playing the Nations League finals, but with a Trippier struggling for form a first senior cap is not far away.
Conor Coady (Wolves)
England’s first three centre backs (John Stones, Harry Maguire and Joe Gomez) are all squad certainties, but Gomez is injured and none of Micheal Keane, Lewis Dunk or James Tarkowski have made watertight case to move up the pecking order. That could open the door for Wolves skipper Coady. Coady has made the transition from Championship to Premier League look simple, can pass the ball out of defence and looks a fit for Southgate’s system, but hasn’t represented England since the Under 20s in 2013. Coady may finally get the call but will likely be confined to the bench.
Declan Rice (West Ham)
After announcing he’s committing his international future to England, Rice has enjoyed a breakout season at West Ham going from utility squad player to linchpin holding midfielder, exemplified by his brilliant display against Liverpool. Assuming his paperwork clears with FIFA, Rice is a certainty for inclusion this month. His case is further strengthened by injury concerns over Eric Dier and Jordan Henderson’s poor recent form, making it a distinct possibility Rice lines up against the Czechs at Wembley this month.
James Ward-Prowse (Southampton)
A stunning free kick at Old Trafford made it 5 goals in 8 games for Ward-Prowse, whose career has been revived by Ralf Hasenhüttl. Ward-Prowse has become the beating heart of an improving Southampton side and is an old favourite from the Under 21s. Ward-Prowse captained Southgate’s side to the Toulon Tournament crown in 2016 and won his solitary senior cap against Germany the following year. England’s midfield options are improving but Harry Winks is the only passing midfielder currently in form so this looks Ward-Prowse’s best chance of a second cap.
Reiss Nelson (Hoffenheim on loan)
After a sensational start with Hoffenheim the goals have dried up for Nelson, but he’s still enjoying an impressive loan spell in the Bundesliga. Nelson has notched 6 goals from 21 games and is another set to travel to the Euro Under 21s this summer. But with doubts over the fitness of Jesse Lingard, England could use another wide player in attack. Southgate likes to promote internally giving Nelson a fair chance of winning his first senior cap this month.
Tammy Abraham (Aston Villa on loan)
Abraham is enjoying a prolific season at Aston Villa bagging 21 goals in 29 games. At just 21 Abraham has notched 49 goals in 103 league appearances and Southgate has shown with Mason Mount he isn’t above picking a promising loanee in the Championship. In truth Abraham now needs to prove himself in the top division after his hit and miss season with Swansea, with whom he won 2 senior caps. A second Euro Under 21s awaits for Abraham this summer, but with Callum Wilson injured an in form centre forward can be a useful trick for a manager to have up his sleeve in a qualifying campaign.