Gareth Southgate will assess whether Raheem Sterling would benefit from a rest before naming his squad for England’s Euro 2024 qualifiers against Malta and North Macedonia.
Sterling has endured a disappointing first campaign at Chelsea and it is understood that he could be absent from next month’s England camp. Southgate is believed to want to include the winger, who has been one of his key players, but the head coach will make a final call after holding talks with the 28-year-old.
Representing England is important to Sterling, who is a senior figure in the squad, and his natural preference would be to report for duty next month. However he has endured a tough time on and off the pitch since joining Chelsea from Manchester City last summer. His form has been inconsistent, he has picked up niggling injuries and he has lived through a series of managerial changes at Stamford Bridge.
Another challenge for Sterling was having to leave England’s World Cup camp in Qatar following a burglary at his Surrey home during the tournament. Sterling flew back to the United Kingdom to check on his family and the incident took a physical and emotional toll on him. He went on to miss England’s Euro 2024 qualifiers against Italy and Ukraine in March because of injury.
There have been flashes of positive form from Sterling recently, including a double in Chelsea’s 2-2 draw with Nottingham Forest earlier this month. But Southgate, who has plenty of options in the wide areas, could decide to give Sterling a chance to recharge his batteries.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, Tyrone Mings and Lewis Dunk are pushing for recalls when Southgate picks his squad on Wednesday, and Crystal Palace’s Eberechi Eze is hoping for his first call-up after a sparkling end to the season.
The manager has seen his plans for the Euro 2024 qualifiers next month against Malta and North Macedonia complicated by injuries and Manchester City and West Ham reaching European finals.
City’s progress to the Champions League final against Internazionale on 10 June means their England contingent of John Stones, Kyle Walker, Phil Foden, Jack Grealish and Kalvin Phillips will be given permission to report late for international duty. Declan Rice is in a similar position because West Ham face Fiorentina in the Europa Conference League final on 7 June. Stones, Walker, Foden, Grealish, Phillips and Rice may not be in a position to start away to Malta on 16 June.
Injury problems are set to rule out Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell, Mason Mount and Reece James, and Brentford’s Ivan Toney is serving an eight-month ban for a breach of Football Association betting rules. However Southgate, whose side opened the qualifying campaign by beating Italy and Ukraine, can still choose from a wide range of options.
Dunk, whose only previous cap came against USA in 2018, has enjoyed an excellent season with Brighton and the 31-year-old centre-back could return after helping Roberto De Zerbi’s side qualify for Europe. Mings lost his England place last year, but is hoping for good news after impressing in central defence for Aston Villa. Palace’s Marc Guéhi is another defender in contention.
England host North Macedonia on 19 June and could also find room for Alexander-Arnold. The defender made just one appearance at the World Cup and was not included in the last squad. But with James injured and Walker expected to be rested against Malta, a spot could be open at right-back. Alexander-Arnold could also be used as a midfielder after impressing in a hybrid role for Liverpool.
Arsenal’s Ben White, who left the World Cup early, is not expecting to be picked and the Milan centre-back Fikayo Tomori is likely to miss out. Chilwell’s absence at left-back could lead to a first call-up for Brentford’s Rico Henry.
Mount’s injury may make space for Eze in attacking midfield. The 24-year-old has been in fine form for Palace and only a serious achilles injury stopped him from being named in England’s provisional squad for Euro 2020. England must fight off interest from Nigeria in Eze.
Southgate’s options in attack have been cut by Toney’s suspension. But Newcastle’s Callum Wilson and Villa’s Ollie Watkins have had strong seasons and could provide backup for Harry Kane. Sterling has had a disappointing season at Chelsea but has overcome a hamstring problem and is confident of returning to the squad.
Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott, Levi Colwill, Jacob Ramsey and Morgan Gibbs-White are on Southgate’s radar but are likely to be named in the Under-21 squad.