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5 key talking points ahead of England’s friendly clash with Belgium

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 25 Mar 2024

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England face Belgium on Tuesday night in their final friendly before Gareth Southgate names his 23-man squad for Euro 2024.

With mounting injuries and defeat to Brazil on Saturday, Southgate has plenty to consider heading into the clash with the Red Devils.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the key talking points ahead of the game.

Rice is right for England

Tuesday’s game could be a big one for several players still aiming to stake their claim for a spot on the plane to Germany this summer.

Arsenal midfielder Declan Rice is already assured of his seat but the fixture is still one he will always remember as he collects a 50th cap, with Southgate also confirming the player would captain England for the first time.

Rice has labelled it as a “pinch me” moment as his memorable season continues to go from strength to strength.

Setting the Toney

With captain and all-time leading goalscorer Harry Kane returning to Bayern Munich for treatment on an ankle injury, the race to be his back-up at the European Championship hots up.

Kane sat out the defeat to Brazil, where Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins played the whole game as the striker in Southgate’s set-up.

Ivan Toney, back from an eight-month ban for breaching the Football Association betting rules, will now be hoping he gets a similar chance to impress with only one of the two likely to get the nod this summer.

A case for the defence

Southgate conceded he has never suffered an injury crisis like the one that has besieged him during the current international break.

A number of players were already unavailable for selection before others dropped out at different stages of the camp.

All in all, it means the defence against Belgium is likely to contain a number of unfamiliar names, with the likes of Jarred Branthwaite, Ezri Konsa and Rico Lewis all in contention.

Will Red Devils roar at Wembley?

England are looking to avoid back-to-back Wembley defeats for the first time since 2013 as the side third in FIFA’s world rankings face the one sat in fourth.

Southgate has only won one of his four previous meetings against Belgium, with one of those three defeats coming in the 2018 World Cup third-placed play-off.

The England boss says there has been “a big evolution” in Tuesday night’s opponents since Russia but still expects Domenico Tedesco’s side “to test us in every area of the game”.

150 up for Southgate

While Rice will be rightly toasting his own achievement, Southgate will quietly reach a landmark moment of his own on Tuesday.

Having played 57 times for his country, the former Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough defender will take charge of the senior England team for the 93rd time – totalling 150 matches.

True to form, Southgate will be putting any talk of his own accolades on the back-burner as he ramps up preparations for his fifth major tournament at the helm.

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