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England World Cup 2018 squad: Who will Southgate pick in 23-man selection for Russia?

5:37 PM IST 10/10/17
England celebrate
The Three Lions boss has a number of big decisions to make ahead of the summer tournament as players vie for seats on the plane

It may not have been entertaining at times, but England have secured their place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Despite an unbeaten qualification campaign, the Three Lions are not among the favourites for the tournament, with a number of questions regarding their squad still to be answered.

With that in mind, Goal takes a look at which players Gareth Southgate is sure to select and others who still have to work to do to earn their spot...


ON THE PLANE


Despite a poor start to life at West Ham, Joe Hart remains Southgate's undisputed No.1 in goal, while it would be a huge shock if Stoke City's Jack Butland did not join him on the runway come June.

In front of them, it remains to be seen whether Southgate will opt for two or three centre-backs, but it would be a shock if both John Stones and Gary Cahill were not included in the first-choice XI.

Kyle Walker is also assured of his place, barring injury, while Danny Rose's absence has clearly been felt over the last six months, and as such he will remain the first-choice left-back should his return to action with Tottenham go to plan.

Having handed the captain's armband to Jordan Henderson on more than one occasion, Southgate is clearly a fan of the Liverpool midfielder, while Eric Dier remains an important cog in England's sometimes-malfuctioning machine.

Perhaps the fiercest competition for places comes in forward areas, but Dele Alli and Raheem Sterling remain regulars while Southgate has admitted his admiration of Adam Lallana as the side's creative hub.

He will be looking to create chances for Harry Kane, who may well skipper the Three Lions in Russia, while Marcus Rashford's performances in recent qualifiers should have rubber stamped his seat on the plane.


IN THE DEPARTURE LOUNGE


Despite a shaky start to life at EvertonMichael Keane has established himself as a regular squad player, and could yet start should Southgate opt for a three-man defence come the tournament.

A further option at the back is Phil Jones, who has shone so far this season for Manchester United and, given his flexibility, would be a useful option for Southgate to have.

Ryan Bertrand is now well established as Southgate's second-choice left-back behind Rose, and could even start should the Tottenham man struggle for form upon his return to action.

Similarly, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has been unable to make much of an impact since moving to Liverpool, but has been a regular under Southgate and only a lack of playing time at Anfield would scupper his hopes of selection.

Jamie Vardy looks set to complete the journey from non-league football to the World Cup, though he is likely to be used as an option off the bench with Kane now well established as the leading man up front.


ON STANDBY


Southgate looks set to have a number of tough decisions on his hands, with a whole host of players on the fringes of his squad looking to impress before the final decisions are made in early June.

Jordan Pickford, Tom Heaton and Fraser Forster are vying for the third goalkeeper berth, while there looks set to be a battle between Kieran Trippier and Nathaniel Clyne for the second-choice right-back berth, presuming the latter returns from his back injury with some decent showings.

The likes of Chris Smalling and Harry Maguire will likely need injuries to those in front of them in the pecking order to make it as back-up defenders, with the former struggling to earn a place in the Manchester United side at present.

Aaron Cresswell looks set to miss out, presuming Southgate only takes two left-backs, but it is in central midfield where some of the most difficult calls are likely to be made.

Tottenham youngster Harry Winks impressed on debut against Lithuania and could yet earn a spot, while West Brom's Jake Livermore has been a regular in Southgate's squads. And don't rule out Jack Wilshere, who has impressed for Arsenal in a handful of outings so far this term, while Fabian Delph's call-up to the most recent squad suggests he remains in the manager's thoughts.

Further forward, Jesse Lingard has made an impact when used off the bench during Southgate's reign, while many will hope Ross Barkley can rediscover his best form for either Everton or another club in the second half of the season.

Up front there looks set to be a battle between Daniel Sturridge, Jermain Defoe and Danny Welbeck for potentially just one spot as a back-up striker to Kane and Vardy.