James Maddison: England set to start Leicester playmaker on left wing against Ukraine | Football News6 min read
James Maddison is expected to make his first start for England against Ukraine at Wembley on Sunday – with the Leicester City playmaker set to line up on the left wing.
There were widespread calls for Maddison to be included in the England World Cup squad but, when he was, injury prevented him playing a single minute in Qatar.
Since making his international debut as a substitute against Montenegro three-and-a-half years ago, injuries and selection dilemmas have meant Maddison has missed out on playing for his country.
He has played only 35 minutes of senior international football in his career.
But Sky Sports News has been told his attitude in Qatar – remaining positive and supportive of his team-mates, even when he did not get his chance on the pitch – impressed boss Gareth Southgate and the rest of the England coaches.
His performances in training in the last week have done likewise and the 26-year-old now looks set to start in the Euro 2024 qualifier against Ukraine, winning his first cap since 2019.
Southgate: Toney in our thoughts | Bellingham, Henderson fit, James out
Southgate said Ivan Toney is « very much » in his thoughts for the game against Ukraine.
The England boss also confirmed Jordan Henderson and Jude Bellingham are fit to feature in the Group C fixture at Wembley, after news of Reece James‘ withdrawal from the squad earlier on Saturday.
On Brentford striker Toney’s possible selection, Southgate said: « He has been very good. We really like him and he’s very much in our thoughts. »
Asked about the fitness concerns in his squad, the England boss said: « Jordan hadn’t trained much the previous week with Liverpool because of an illness, but he’s good to go now. »
On Bellingham, Kalvin Phillips and the rest of the group, Southgate added: « They’re all good. Clearly, with Kalvin, he played his first 90 minutes for a little while against Italy, so we’ll have to assess freshness, but that’s the same as the whole squad.
« We’ve got to get the balance right with continuity and consistency, but also freshness. »
Should Southgate have made extra call-up for depleted England?
Sky Sports News senior reporter Rob Dorsett:
Fresh off the back of a momentous win in Naples – England’s first victory in Italy for 62 years, and one where Harry Kane made his own history – Gareth Southgate can’t even name a full bench for the home game with Ukraine.
He has only 18 outfield players to pick from. Reece James pulling out with a minor hamstring problem goes alongside Marcus Rashford, Mason Mount and Nick Pope’s injury withdrawals, and Luke Shaw’s suspension.
Southgate rarely makes late call-ups, but his refusal to do so here is a strange one. The England boss has explained it away by saying that it’s very difficult to bring in players mid-camp, when they’re not up to speed with where the other players are.
Normally, he would raid the U21s, but he said because their game was the day before the senior team, that was also problematic.
At least England’s problems in midfield have eased.
Jordan Henderson came into St George’s Park off-colour as he recovered from illness, Jude Bellingham limped off in Naples with a knee knock, and Kalvin Phillips played almost twice as many minutes against Italy as he’s managed all season for Manchester City.
Southgate says all three are good to go against Ukraine, though he will consider the freshness of those players. That points to probably Henderson and Bellingham lining up alongside Declan Rice, with Phillips rested.
Kane will start up top again for sure. He wants to play every minute for England, and surpassing Wayne Rooney’s all-time scoring record hasn’t diminished his hunger for goals. The fact that Tottenham don’t play again until a week on Monday, means there’s no logical debate about load-management, even though it will be his second 90 minutes in three days.
Southgate has no issue with Rashford’s trip to New York
Southgate has defended Marcus Rashford’s decision to jet off to the United States after pulling out of the England squad through injury.
Few in world football are in greater form than the rejuvenated Manchester United forward, who has scored 19 goals in 25 appearances since his impressive World Cup showing.
Qatar saw Rashford make his first England appearances since his shoot-out miss in the Euro 2020 final against Italy, which was followed by a challenging year in terms of form and fitness.
The 25-year-old was called up for March’s European qualification double-header against Italy and Ukraine, only to withdraw after picking up a knock in the FA Cup quarter-final against Fulham.
Rashford was in New York when England were winning 2-1 in Naples, where Southgate said « when you haven’t had him that often then it’s different to being a loss ».
The England boss clarified: « I was asked the other day did we miss him and it was semantics of words, really. But he’s in good form, we’d love to have had him as an option for this camp but we haven’t got him.
« Always then I have to think what’s the best solution and it’s opportunities for other people. »
Asked about Rashford walking around New York rather than linking up with England, Southgate said: « I wouldn’t think the levels are quite the same!
« Once he’s ruled out of the squad, it’s entirely up to him how he spends his time.
« The players don’t get a lot of breaks, so I think for all of them, once they’ve got a little bit of time… I’m sure our players will be flying off wherever after tomorrow’s game. If they get 48 hours with the schedule as it is, I think they have to take advantage of it. »
‘We hope Rashford’s good form can continue’
It is not the first time Rashford has withdrawn from a squad, but Southgate defused the suggestion it could harm his chances of future call-ups.
« We always make a judgement on how people are playing and he’s obviously played a lot for us, » he said. « He’s over 50 caps now for England and close to 50 of those have been since I’ve been the manager.
« I’ve known him a long time. I know what he’s capable of. It’s good to see him in the goalscoring form he’s in. When he’s getting a chance at the moment, you’re expecting him to score.
« There’s been a period in the last couple of years where he’s not been as hot as that and that’s been frustrating for everybody to see but he is in good form and we hope that can continue. »
Where and when is Euro 2024?
Germany are hosting the tournament which is scheduled to take place from June 14 to July 14 2024.
The format will be the same as Euro 2020 where the top two in each of the six final tournament groups will proceed to the round of 16 along with the four best third-placed finishers.
What do England need to qualify from Group C?
The group winners and runners-up advance directly to the final tournament of 24 teams.
The remaining three teams will be decided through the play-offs, featuring 12 teams selected based on their performance in the 2022/23 Nations League.
England’s Group C schedule…
England will play home and away against Italy, Ukraine, North Macedonia and Malta in Group C. Their fixture list is as follows:
- Mar 26, 2023 – England vs Ukraine
- Jun 16, 2023 – Malta vs England
- Jun 19, 2023 – England vs North Macedonia
- Sep 9, 2023 – Ukraine vs England
- Oct 17, 2023 – England vs Italy
- Nov 17, 2023 – England vs Malta
- Nov 20, 2023 – North Macedonia vs England