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In depth look into England as World Cup Qualifiers continue

Tuesday 3rd October 2017
The Three Lions are on the verge of clinching a berth to the 2018 World Cup in Russia. And with only two games left on the Qualifiers schedule, England manager Gareth Southgate has announced the squad for the upcoming fixtures against Slovenia and Lithuania.
England are in a very good position to clinch a berth in the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Manager Gareth Southgate has done a good job since taking over at the helm, and England have been playing quite well of late. And with that in mind, the former defender has not made too many changes to the squad for the final two games of the European World Cup Qualifiers to take place in October.

Fraser Forster replaces Burnley's injured keeper Tom Heaton, while Leicester striker Jamie Vardy is also injured. His place will be taken by Fabian Delph, with the midfielder playing brilliantly for Manchester City over the last few weeks.

Through eight games, England sits at the top spot of the Group F with 20 points. They will host Slovenia at Wembley on Thursday, 5 October and then take on Lithuania in Vilnius three days later. A win over Slovenia - who sit second five points back - would be enough to clinch the top spot in the Group and a direct berth on Russia, though.

Without further ado, here is the 26-men squad Southgate has called up for the upcoming matches.

Goalkeepers



Joe Hart, Fraser Forster, Jack Butland, Jordan Pickford


Analysis: England's goalkeeping situation has two different perspectives. They do not have a world-class goalkeeper like France, Germany or Italy. But at the same time, they have four alternatives that can easily start with little to no differences between each other.

It is hard to see who will get the nod, though. All four have experience, but Hart has been the top choice for quite a while now. And considering England needs to win against Slovenia - and that the game is not going to be easy by any means - he is likely to get the start. Pickford, Butland and Forster would all be good alternatives to start against Lithuania, a lesser opponent and on a game where England could have already sealed their World Cup fate.

Defenders



Ryan Bertrand, Aaron Cresswell, Gary Cahill, Phil Jones, Harry Maguire, John Stones, Michael Keane, Chris Smalling, Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier


Analysis: England might lack an offensive threat at the left-back position, but they are solid in every other aspect of the defence. There is no Ashley Cole or Luke Shaw, so it seems Kieran Trippier would have to play on the left side. Kyle Walker appears as the best alternative to handle the opposite flank despite the fact that he hasn't looked very impressive for Manchester City.

In the meantime, the possibilities for a centre-back pairing are almost endless. Phil Jones has been starting regularly at Manchester United, and he's looked great. The same goes for John Stones (Manchester City) and Michael Keane (Everton), while Smalling has not played much for United. But the good news is that all of them have international experience. And considering neither Slovenia nor Lithuania should pose much of a threat, England should be just fine. At least for now.

Midfielders



Eric Dier, Fabian Delph, Jake Livermore, Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jesse Lingard, Dele Alli


Analysis: Southgate said the call-up of Delph would give the team "more alternatives" in midfield, so he is expected to see action in either of the two games.  And considering the lack of options for a central-midfield role, it doesn't seem far-fetched to imagine Delph alongside Henderson and Dier in a three-man midfield, with Dier operating on a more defensive stance.

Southgate also has Dele Alli at his disposal, but he's been hit with a suspension for the first game. But the presence of Sterling, Lingard, and Oxlade-Chamberlain could provide enough cover on the wings.

Attackers



Marcus Rashford, Harry Kane, Jermain Defoe, Daniel Sturridge


Analysis: The attacking line must be England's strongest area by a wide margin. Defoe and Sturridge have not started the season on a strong note, but they are viable backup alternatives. Defoe can operate on a central role in case Kane or Rashford need a rest, while Sturridge can operate all over the final third.

The real threats here, however, are Kane and Rashford. The 24-year-old Tottenham striker has been in tremendous form of late thanks to 11 goals in his last six appearances across all competitions. He has five strikes in the UEFA Champions League alone, netting twice against Borussia Dortmund and three more times against APOEL Nicosia. On the other hand, Rashford has been drifting in and out of the starting lineup at Manchester United, but he has been productive either way with five goals and three assists in 11 matches thus far. Those numbers are not as impressive as Kane's, but we have to remember he is just 19 years old.

Rashford is going to be great. He just needs a bit more time to develop. But there is no doubt he fully deserves to be part of the England National Team based on his current form.
Juan Pablo Aravena

29-year-old sports analyst and journalist with over three years of experience in the industry. Writes about all kinds of sports from football to golf, but there is no question his biggest passion in life is football. Manchester United, Borussia Dortmund and Colo Colo fan.


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