England

Gareth Southgate's big decisions ahead of the Euro 2020 final

Ross Jackson
Gareth Southgate has a number of key decisions to make
Gareth Southgate has a number of key decisions to make / Visionhaus/Getty Images
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So far Gareth Southgate has barely put a foot wrong at Euro 2020.

The England boss has stuck to his guns despite the clamour for players like Jack Grealish and Phil Foden to be given more game time, and while the Three Lions' campaign may not always have been exhilarating, they're exactly where they want to be with one more game of the tournament to go.

You probably don't need reminding that Italy are the only team standing between England and European Championship glory, and Southgate is about to embark on the biggest day of both his playing and his managerial career.

A handful of players in the England squad will know they're nailed on to be included on the Three Lions boss' team sheet for Sunday's final, but there's still a lot of crucial decisions for Southgate to make.

With that in mind, here's a look at the dilemmas ahead of the England manager - both in terms of personnel and system - before choosing the starting XI.


Who will start in goal for England against Italy?

Jordan Pickford was beaten for the first time at Euro 2020 against Denmark
Jordan Pickford was beaten for the first time at Euro 2020 against Denmark / Visionhaus/Getty Images

It might seem an obvious one but Jordan Pickford looked very shaky at times against Denmark.

The Everton man misplaced a number of simple passes early on and should have done much better as Mikkel Damsgaard's long-range free kick flew past him.

That being said, we'd be stupid to suggest anyone other than Pickford will start in goal on Sunday.

England's goalkeeper to play Italy: Jordan Pickford


Who will start at right back for England against Italy?

Kyle Walker will likely retain his place on the right
Kyle Walker will likely retain his place on the right / Frank Augstein - Pool/Getty Images

Luke Shaw's superb displays at left-back mean he's nailed on to start against Italy, while John Stones and Harry Maguire will continue as Southgate's first-choice centre-back pairing.

The right-back spot maybe isn't such a foregone conclusion. Kyle Walker has been England's main right-back so far this tournament, but both Reece James and Kieran Trippier have also featured - with the latter even playing on the left in the opener against Croatia.

One of the key matchups in the final will be whoever Southgate plays at right-back against Lorenzo Insigne.

The Napoli man has already proven at Euro 2020 that when he's allowed to drop into pockets of space and is given time to pick his head up he can be a nightmare to defend against, so denying him such opportunities will be key.

Walker's pace and strength mean he's the perfect player to keep track of the nimble wideman, and it was evident from his performance in the latter stages against Denmark that he's played in big games many times before and knows how to handle the occasion.

England's right-back to play Italy: Kyle Walker


Who will start in midfield for England against Italy?

Mason Mount has always been a big favourite for Gareth Southgate
Mason Mount has always been a big favourite for Gareth Southgate / Visionhaus/Getty Images

It goes without saying that the midfield battle is crucial in deciding any football match, and that'll certainly be the case on Sunday.

Even if you hadn't watched a single minute of Euro 2020 you'd have heard about the influence Jorginho has had on the Italy side, and not allowing him time to pass through the lines will definitely be one of the things Southgate is concentrating on.

The Chelsea midfielder's club teammate Mason Mount is a big favourite of Southgate's and he's proved he's so much more than just a decent footballer. The youngster's endeavour and work rate is just as impressive as his ability on the ball and he'll play a huge part in closing down Jorginho and denying him space.

Rice and Phillips will retains their places in midfield
Rice and Phillips will retains their places in midfield / Carl Recine - Pool/Getty Images

Slightly deeper than Mount we can expect to see Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice. Both players have looked very good and pretty average at times this tournament, and against Denmark it was clear that they struggled with the intense press from the Danes and started looking backwards rather than forwards in a bid to retain possession.

If England are to prosper against Italy then they need Phillips to return to the player we saw against Croatia, while Rice's ability to run with the ball has improved massively over the last 12 months and that could also be key to beating the Italy press.

England's midfield to play Italy: Kalvin Phillips, Declan Rice and Mason Mount


Which forwards will start for England against Italy?

Raheem Sterling has been brilliant so far this tournament
Raheem Sterling has been brilliant so far this tournament / Carl Recine - Pool/Getty Images

Even if Harry Kane still hadn't scored at Euro 2020 you know he'd be the first name on the team sheet, so having bagged four goals in his last three games he'll obviously lead the line.

Raheem Sterling is another definite starter having played brilliantly throughout Euro 2020, but Southgate has chopped and changed with the right-hand side of the frontline this tournament.

Foden started against Croatia and looked very bright early on, but he's fallen out of favour a little of late and has also picked up an injury ahead of the game. Grealish has also had his chance there, but given the impact he's made coming off the bench when England's opponents have been tiring it would be a shock to see him start.

Jadon Sancho looked impressive when given his chance against Ukraine, but the performances of Bukayo Saka seem to have taken a lot of England fans by surprise this summer.

Gareth Southgate could give Bukayo Saka his chance again
Gareth Southgate could give Bukayo Saka his chance again / Marc Atkins/Getty Images

The Arsenal man is direct, pacy and skilful, and if England are looking for one area of the pitch they can exploit then it should be in behind the Italian full-backs. Both Emerson Palmieri and Giovanni Di Lorenzo can be suspect defensively and the pace of the Three Lions' wide forwards could be their key to unlocking the Italian defence.

England have looked at their most threatening when getting the likes of Sterling, Saka, Shaw and Walker to the byline, and if they target Emerson and Di Lorenzo on Sunday they're bound to get some joy.

England's forwards to play Italy: Bukayo Saka, Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling


What formation will England play against Italy?

Gareth Southgate has some big decisions ahead of him
Gareth Southgate has some big decisions ahead of him / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Southgate has experimented with his system as well as with personnel at Euro 2020, but in the last two outings he's opted for a back four.

Expect the Three Lions boss to start with a back four on Sunday, but with the wide areas definitely an area of the pitch England can exploit there is the possibility he could revert to a back three later in the game in a bid to put more pressure on Emerson and Di Lorenzo.

The only other real question regarding tactics is whether Mount plays behind Kane or drops into a midfield three, but with Southgate no doubt emphasising the need to stop Jorginho dictating the game, Mount is likely to sit in a midfield three so to avoid being caught further up the field than the Italian midfielder.

England's formation to play Italy: 4-3-3


England predicted lineup to play Italy

Pickford; Walker, Maguire, Stones, Shaw; Rice, Phillips, Mount; Saka, Kane, Sterling


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