In-form Phil Foden is poised to join Harry Kane in England’s front-three at Euro 2020… but which one of Jadon Sancho, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish deserves the other starting spot?
- Gareth Southgate has named his final 26-man England squad for Euro 2020
- Three Lions boss is set to play a front three with captain Harry Kane at the helm
- Sizzling form of Phil Foden means the youngster is also widely expected to start
- Sportsmail assesses the chances of those competing for the final forward berth
- Find out the latest Euro 2020 news including fixtures, live action and results here.
After an anxious delay to naming his official England Euro 2020 squad, Gareth Southgate finally cleared up any lingering doubts by confirming who exactly will be going to the European Championships.
One thing which many fans and pundits alike are expecting about England is the continued adoption of a front three attacking line, with captain and talisman Harry Kane as the spearhead.
Alongside him, the sizzling form of Manchester City starlet Phil Foden means the 21-year-old is a shoo-in to take up a wider position and continue playing the role which has served him so successfully for his club.
Now, this presents a rather interesting conundrum. Who makes up the final attacking spot, flanking Kane like Foden?
Harry Kane and Phil Foden look destined to start up top for England, but who will join them?
England and its current iteration of stars are blessed with exciting talent all playing at the very elite level of European football.
It is certainly a headache for Southgate, but a nice one to have.
The Three Lions boss will undoubtedly be using the final warm-up friendlies to ascertain which of his forwards are that bit sharper, and that bit more determined to pull on the famous white shirt from the first minute.
With lots of factors to take into account, Sportsmail assesses the chances of the four most likely candidates to slot into the front line.
It has not exactly been the season Sterling wanted prior to heading into a major international tournament.
The 26-year-old has found himself in and out of the City team as they surged to reclaim the Premier League title and made the Champions League final.
With 10 goals and eight assists from a 31 domestic game season for Sterling, the stats are nothing to be scoffed at.
For the player himself though, he will have wanted much more. In recent years Sterling has transformed into a goal-scoring machine under the guidance of Pep Guardiola.
His finishing had improved and his judgement in the decisive moments was getting sharper. All things pointed to a recipe of success for England, yet in the past 12-months Sterling has found himself overshadowed by the likes of Foden and Riyad Mahrez around him.
Raheem Sterling has been out of sorts and ended the season with a painful European final loss
Worryingly, it also happens to be major international tournaments in which Sterling finds a barren patch.
To date, the City star has nine caps in World Cup finals matches, and three in European Championship finals – with a grand total of zero goals. It doesn’t bode well for Sterling, particularly given the disappointing end to his club season.
After being thrust back into the limelight for the Champions League final clash in Porto, the 26-year-old struggled to get into the game while featuring in Guardiola’s tinkered formation, and lost his way as a result.
Luckily for the forward, his relationship with Southgate remains strong and the England manager certainly believes in what Sterling can offer. When on form, few in the world are better, or have the same capability to be a match winner.
On the other hand, England do now have a variety of players of a similar ilk, who finished the season in much more impressive fashion…
Chances of starting: 3/5
Sterling has had mixed success this season for Man City and was taken off in the Champions League final against Chelsea having struggled to find his rhythm in the game out in Porto
And no such better example of an in-form star can be seen than with Borussia Dortmund sensation Sancho.
Unlike Sterling, the Kennington-born star found his A-game in the decisive months of the campaign and terrorised defences as his side surged to a Champions League-placed finish in the Bundesliga.
After a slow and out-of-sorts start to the campaign, Sancho clicked into gear at the turn of the year and looked like his spellbinding self again.
It’s easy to forget the winger is only 21 years old, such is his maturity and composure on the football pitch.
Jadon Sancho made a slow start to the campaign before coming back in blistering fashion
Sancho concluded his campaign with four assists in the final 10 games of the run-in, making 20 assists overall throughout the season (all competitions). He also scored eight league goals, with a further six in the German Cup and two on the Champions League stage.
It has been Sancho’s link-up with Erling Haaland which has caused the most interest this season however, and undoubtedly something Southgate will have been paying close attention to.
On the global stage Haaland is bidding to emulate the likes of England’s talisman Kane in becoming a bonafide world class striker, who scores over the 20-goal mark every single season.
For Sancho to strike up such a telepathic understanding with an attacker of this level, the chances of translating this into his play alongside Kane are, one would suspect, rather high.
To date Sancho has 18 England caps to his name, with three goals. It is important to remember that his international career is still very much in the early stages, and so the prospect of Southgate using him frequently as an electric substitution does seem most likely.
Chances of starting: 2/5
Sancho (right) has established a devastating partnership at club level with Erling Haaland (left)
One man who is craving a return to international football more than any other is Rashford.
Recently, following a heartbreaking night in Gdansk when he lost the Europa League final to Villarreal with Manchester United, the forward admitted he had been struggling this season.
Things have not slotted into place for Rashford, who has been unseated at United as the main forward by veteran star Edinson Cavani.
Still, the season has produced 21 goals and 11 assists for Rashford in all competitions; six goals of which were scored in the Champions League.
Having an under-par season and still recording these kind of numbers show the standing of Rashford, and Southgate will be hoping a spell away with the England team will do wonders.
Marcus Rashford has admitted he has struggled this season, but his figures have still been high
The Mancunian has the natural pace and tight ball control that benefits England’s counter attacking moves, with Rashford also able to play in beyond the back-line if assisted by a deeper-lying Kane, as he has been doing so for Tottenham this season.
With 11 goals in 40 England caps, Rashford will be looking to beef up his haul and establish himself as a consistent international performer.
Like Sterling, Rashford is yet to find the back of the net in the main international tournaments with the Three Lions, having played at Euro 2016 and the 2018 Russia World Cup.
He has, however, produced the goods in the more recent UEFA Nations League, scoring four goals in seven appearances.
Chances of starting: 2/5
Rashford ended his domestic season with Manchester United with a Europa League final loss
Grealish may have had a quiet end to the Premier League season after battling lingering injury concerns, but make no mistake about it, the Aston Villa man is set for a massive summer.
It is no secret that Southgate is a huge admirer of what Grealish brings to the table, given he is seen to be in a slightly different mould to the likes of Sterling, Sancho, Rashford and Foden.
Whereas the others are quick, energetic and able to produce lightning pace at the flick of a switch, Grealish is much more unconventional.
While not exactly slow, the playmaker is able to drive with the ball powerfully and confidently, luring in opponents before bamboozling them with his feet.
Jack Grealish is seen as England’s secret weapon this summer, with a very unique set of skills
Prior to his injury lay-off at the start of the season, Grealish was the most fouled player in the Premier League by a considerable margin. Only Wilfried Zaha and Allan Saint-Maximin came close.
And yet, despite missing a huge chunk of games in the final months of the season, Grealish still ended the campaign as the most fouled star, and the player with the most carries of the ball into the opposition box.
Why is all this important? Well, it shows just what the 25-year-old’s game is all about.
Grealish loves being on the ball, and his team-mates love giving it to him. By working possession into tight areas and drawing defenders around him, Grealish provides myriad options for his allies making forward runs.
Taking Aston Villa this season, Ollie Watkins’ highly impressive debut campaign in the top flight is due in large part to Grealish freeing up pockets of space, before beating defenders and slotting in inch-perfect passes.
Southgate is well aware that Grealish will have the chance to act in a similar manner for England, importantly with a higher level of talent around him.
The Birmingham-born star was only able to turn in 27 collective appearances this season, yet posted 12 assists and seven goals.
When Villa played Manchester United in May, Southgate (bottom left) was seen in deep conversation with Grealish (top right) in the stands at Villa Park for large parts of the match
Ahead of the tournament, Grealish has been handed the iconic No 7 shirt. Now, while this should not be read into too much, is remains unlikely that such a number would be allocated to a player destined for a bit-part role.
Towards the end of the recent campaign, Southgate was seen speaking to the then injured Grealish for large periods in the stands, while a Villa match against Manchester United played out before them.
It’s clear the England boss has big plans for the 25-year-old, who is largely viewed as the nation’s secret weapon for the tournament.
But for his injury-strewn end to the season, Grealish would likely be a certainty for a starting position under Southgate. Now, however, various fitness tests must be passed.
Chances of starting: 4/5
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