Thursday, July 18, 2024

England starting XI vs Serbia for Euro 2024 opener: Sky Sports writers pick their Three Lions teams -Dlight News

Gareth Southgate has a few key selection dilemmas ahead of England’s Euro 2024 opener against Serbia on Sunday.

England are without Harry Maguire at a major tournament for the first time under Southgate, leaving the manager with a big choice to make at centre-back as to who partners John Stones, while left-back is another problem area.

Trent Alexander-Arnold is finally getting his chance at a major tournament, but will he start in midfield? Conor Gallagher, Kobbie Mainoo and Adam Wharton are also pushing for a spot there.

The attack is brimming with talent, the question is how to find the right balance with the players available. Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden have made compelling cases to start as the No 10, but don’t forget Cole Palmer.

Eberechi Eze, Anthony Gordon and Jarrod Bowen could also provide something different for Southgate.

Here, the Sky Sports writers pick their starting XIs for Sunday’s game against Serbia at 8pm…

‘Combine Foden and Bellingham and add Gallagher’s industry for fast start’

Peter Smith's England XI vs Serbia

Sky Sports’ Peter Smith:

After that woeful send-off defeat to Iceland, Gareth Southgate will be desperate to field his strongest XI on Sunday to get England’s Euros campaign off to a flying start. Given the challenge Serbia are likely to pose, this is surely it.

An opening-game win won’t be straightforward. Serbia, despite low expectations and a manager under pressure, have dangerous individuals. But Kieran Trippier has the defensive nous to limit Sergej Milinkovic-Savic as a stand-in left-back, while Conor Gallagher brings the industry to overpower a relatively weak opposition central midfield but also get back to help Kyle Walker with Serbia dangerman Dusan Tadic.

Strahinja Pavlovic, on the right of a back-three, could limit Bukayo Saka’s progress so the left channel looks likely to be England’s route to success, where Phil Foden, coming in from the wing, and Jude Bellingham, bursting forwards as a No 8, can combine in exciting fashion.

‘Time to unleash Trent in midfield’

Nick Wright's England XI vs Serbia

Sky Sports’ Nick Wright:

I want to see Trent Alexander-Arnold feature prominently at the tournament and I would have him in midfield against Serbia. The fact he has been given the No 8 shirt hopefully indicates Gareth Southgate is thinking along the same lines. His vision and passing prowess can be a game-changer against group-stage rivals expected to sit deep.

The defence worries me. Not so much because of Marc Guehi, who I like alongside John Stones in Harry Maguire’s absence, but because of the left-back situation. Kieran Trippier just edges Joe Gomez but the position is an obvious weak spot as we wait for Luke Shaw’s return.

Jude Bellingham’s importance means he goes straight into my team despite the quick turnaround from the Champions League final, and that means Phil Foden moves to the left. Bukayo Saka, frequently England’s best player, is an obvious pick on the right.

‘Palmer deserves to start at No 10’

Charlotte Marsh's England XI

Sky Sports’ Charlotte Marsh:

Although Trent Alexander-Arnold has excelled in a more roaming role further forward, with a lack of full-backs in the England squad, he has to go where needed – and can still be effective.

Marc Guehi will be a reliable partner alongside John Stones and was one of England’s only bright sparks in a woeful performance against Iceland.

Although Cole Palmer is placed in more of a midfield role in my XI, he could conceivably start on the wing, rotating with other members of the squad. But given his superb season and Three Lions performances heading into the tournament, he deserves a starting berth.

‘Attack the best form of defence’

David Richardson's England XI

Sky Sports’ David Richardson:

Attack! Attack! Attack, attack, attack! Gareth Southgate is overloaded with forward options so now’s the time to use them.

England should make a statement against Serbia with a front-foot approach, unleashing both Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden in midfield.

Eberechi Eze deserves to start on the left after his showing against Bosnia & Herzegovina with Anthony Gordon ready to replace him and run at tired defenders. The same applies for Cole Palmer, who must be utilised for either Bukayo Saka or Foden to boost goal difference. Substitutes need to be made early enough for them to have an impact.

Kyle Walker can tuck into midfield alongside Declan Rice to keep the opposition penned in and nullified on the counter-attack, allowing Kieran Trippier to ease in at left-back.

It’s time for England, with their patched-up defence, to score not one but three more than you!

‘Gomez & Wharton to start, with Rice pushed further forward’

Richard Morgan's England XI

Sky Sports’ Richard Morgan:

In essence, England’s starting XI to face Serbia comes down to three positions: centre-back, No 6 and the right-sided forward – with the remaining eight players certain of their places.

I have gone for the experience, reliability and pace of Joe Gomez to partner John Stones at the heart of England’s back line, while the now fit Bukayo Saka just manages to hold off Cole Palmer’s challenge to take his place in their three-man forward line.

However, in order to have Declan Rice nearer the opposition goal as a No 8, where we often saw him excel with Arsenal last season, I’ve drafted in Adam Wharton, 20, to make his first competitive start for his country as a holding midfield player, helping to put out Serbia fires in front of the defence.

‘England will benefit from giving Bellingham extra rest’

Ben Grounds' England XI

Sky Sports’ Ben Grounds:

I expect England to finish group winners. With that in mind, I would give Jude Bellingham an extended break following a long season with Real Madrid.

Gareth Southgate has shown he can be ruthless but he is also sensitive towards young players with mounting expectations on their shoulders. It would not come as a shock to me to see Bellingham benched.

He has looked exhausted over the past month and didn’t perform in either leg of the Champions League semi-final or indeed at Wembley against Borussia Dortmund.

Cole Palmer is perfect for this early test in the No 10 role to allow Bellingham time to return to his best.

Marc Guehi gets the nod at centre-back alongside John Stones and it is a partnership that Southgate will hope sticks throughout the tournament.

Harry Maguire’s absence will have sparked uncertainty in the camp over who partners Stones, but the sooner the back four is established the better for England’s chances.

‘Steady Konsa should partner Stones in defence’

Zinny Boswell's England squad

Sky Sports’ Zinny Boswell:

The big decision here was who to partner John Stones and Ezri Konsa gets my vote. His steady and consistent performances in a team that builds from the back make him the best fit.

Kieran Trippier is in at left-back only by dint of Luke Shaw’s injury. His late season form is a worry, but if he can return to his best, this is a solid back four.

Trent Alexander-Arnold has shown he simply has to be in this team and a midfield trio of himself, Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham looks terrifying on paper. It’s a risk as this is untested, but England need his creativity to break teams down in the group stage.

The front four takes little explaining: Bellingham must play further forward, and we can’t fall into the same old trap of shoehorning our best players in at the risk of losing balance.

If any of those three behind Harry Kane are underperforming, Cole Palmer is hot on their heels. I wouldn’t put it past him to displace either Phil Foden or Bukayo Saka in this tournament.

‘Mainoo has proved he can handle the big occasions’

Dan Sansom's England XI vs Serbia

Sky Sports’ Dan Sansom:

With Harry Maguire unavailable, Marc Guehi is the best option to partner John Stones in defence. Guehi is used to playing on the left-hand side for Crystal Palace and although he lacks experience in international tournaments, he already has 11 caps to his name since making his debut two years ago. He deserves to take the next step.

Kieran Trippier is a straightforward replacement for injured left-back Luke Shaw, while Kobbie Mainoo should start alongside Declan Rice in midfield. The 19-year-old has been fast-tracked into the senior set-up but his performances against Brazil and Belgium in March and a player-of-the-match display for Manchester United in the FA Cup final prove he can handle the big occasions.

In attack, Phil Foden is more effective in a central position but that place is taken by Jude Bellingham. Both players must start so Foden will begin on the left, where he can still have a devastating impact as long as he’s given the freedom to drift inside.

‘Trent to start alongside Rice’

Sam Blitz's England XI vs Serbia

Sky Sports’ Sam Blitz:

There aren’t too many issues with the England back five. Marc Guehi’s recent England displays have shown he is more than capable in that position, while Kieran Trippier played the first game at Euro 2020 at left-back so it is not exactly foreign for him.

As for who plays alongside Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham in central midfield, Trent Alexander-Arnold should take the role. What Rice and Bellingham bring is energy in midfield through running, while Alexander-Arnold is the pass master.

The Liverpool man’s ball-playing range could be crucial to the Three Lions being more unpredictable while trying to break down low-block teams in the group stage.

Have a go yourself here!

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