England’s line-up for their World Cup opener against Iran has been leaked more than 15 hours before they take the pitch. Gareth Southgate is expected to go on offense and start with a defense of four instead of the defense of three, which he has used more frequently since he took over in 2016.
Southgate have often opted for a 3-4-2-1 formation, although they did sometimes use a back four at Euros last summer and in Nations League games against Germany and Italy in June. But he returned to his three trusted full-backs against the same two opponents in England’s two most recent games in September.
However, he is expected to name an attack-minded line-up against Iran, ranked 20th in the world by FIFA, while England plan a strong start in the Doha sunshine. the Telegraph report Bukayo Saka will start again with Phil Foden in the top three in a 4-3-3, which Express Sport also understands.
Harry Maguire will start at centre-back despite his problems with Manchester United, while Manchester City’s John Stones is expected to partner him. Kyle Walker, the Stones’ City teammate, remains unavailable as he struggles to regain his full fitness following groin surgery.
Without Chelsea duo Reece James or Ben Chilwell in Qatar due to injury, United’s Luke Shaw and Newcastle’s Kieran Trippier are expected to be the starting full-backs against Iran. Trent Alexander-Arnold, the Liverpool defender, will have to settle for a place on the bench.
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Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford will start in goal behind the back four, who will also be protected by a three-man midfield that includes West Ham’s Declan Rice, Borussia Dortmund’s teenage sensation Jude Bellingham and Mason Mount from Chelsea.
And Arsenal’s in-form winger Saka will form a front three alongside Chelsea’s Raheem Sterling and England captain Harry Kane, the Tottenham striker. Southgate will be looking to pick up an early win so they can make use of their five substitutes given the hot and humid conditions.
James Maddison will not feature in the opening match as he has not featured in any of England’s three training sessions so far in Qatar. Foden is expected to get minutes off the bench and will then hope to start against the United States or Wales, as are Jordan Henderson, Jack Grealish, Marcus Rashford and Alexander-Arnold.
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Southgate will likely rotate their team around the groups to keep them as fresh as possible for the knockout stages. But he will show loyalty to a number of players, including United’s Maguire for starters.
Southgate said on Sunday: “There is always some luck involved with injuries, but we have to make sure we manage people correctly and make sure we minimize the difficult situations we could face. We have a lot of players at different physical moments.”
“Some have played every game for the last few months. Some have played very little. Some are coming back from injury. So we’re managing training sessions individually for each player to get everyone across the line. So we’ve had to push them. for a couple of days, get them used to the heat.
“And then for the last few days, get them out there to adjust to the game. We’ll have to continue to do that through the tournament and that’s where the team is so important. There’s a slightly condensed schedule in the first four days and we have to make sure to take advantage of the staff that we have”.
Expected England XI vs Iran in full (4-3-3): Pickford; Trippier, Maguire, Stones, Shaw; Rice, Bellingham, Mount; Saka, Sterling, Kane.
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