Mason Mount and Phil Foden won’t play against Austria, so Jack Grealish will probably start. Even though he’s not had that many games for Aston Villa towards the end of the season he is back fit and playing.
It will be intriguing to see which way Gareth goes regarding the holding midfield players. Jordan Henderson’s not played for three months but he’s so important. You look for leaders on the pitch and he’s one.
We’ve seen what he’s done at Liverpool, winning the title and the Champions League, we’ve seen the way he drives his players on.
Not having him for three months was a blow, and you have to wonder how fit he’s going to be. So, does Gareth go with one holding midfield player and two in front?
Jude Bellingham’s had experience over in Germany with Dortmund and maybe he’s a bit too young – but he’s [Bellingham] played in big games so it wouldn’t faze him if he got thrown in. It’s great to have all these options. We’ve seen what Grealish can do, he’s a wonderful player, and Mount’s been outstanding all season, as has Foden. But having a defensive block behind those flair players is crucial – that’s why it’s so important that Henderson is fit and ready to start.
England need to learn how to break down defensive teams
We should take care of Austria tonight, but when you play against a team with a deep block and ten men behind the ball, which I presume Austria will do, it’s always tough to break them down.
England need to get used to this, it’s something we might find in the group stage at the Euros. Teams won’t open up against us, they’ll sit deep and try to counter-attack. But once we get the first goal against Austria, and I’m sure we will, it will open up and I expect us to win 2-0 or 3-0.
I’m quite excited about England’s chances at the Euros, and that’s why I’ll be intrigued to see how Gareth sets his team up for the Romania game, because that should tell us how he’ll set up his team for the tournament.
You have to get something from the first game. Our opener against Switzerland at Euro 96 wasn’t the greatest of games, we didn’t play that well. In fact, it was a terrible game. But we managed to get a point out of it – and that’s so important. Gareth has to make sure he gets the right team, the right balance, to do that.
Austria match is chance for players to stake their Euro claims
The men who play for England against Austria will do so thinking this is their opportunity to mark Gareth Southgate’s card. When you join up with a squad as a player, you already have an inkling of how the manager is going to go and which players will be in his starting XI at the tournament.
But when you’re going into a big competition you never know what’s going to happen. There could be red cards or injuries, so Gareth has to look at players and see if they are able to step in and do a job.
This is a crucial week for building up teamwork and balance in the side, and the line-up against Austria won’t be his first-choice team. There are four or five Manchester City and Chelsea players who would usually be in the line-up who are being given a bit of extra rest after their Champions League Final exertions.
That’s why the second friendly, against Romania on Sunday, could be more interesting. Going by my experience when I played with England, that final friendly is normally the game when the manager fields the side that will start the first group match at the tournament.
Let’s hope everybody comes through fit and ready to go
When you play these warm-up games, you just hope that the players come through fine and there are no injuries. That’s the most important thing. It’s been such a tough couple of years for football and the players are fatigued. You just want to make sure you come out of these games with everybody fit and ready to go.
Whatever happens against Austria is not relevant to what’s going to happen in the Euros. They’re [Austria] not a team we’ll be concerned about, we’re not due to meet them in the Euros at any stage. This game is a pilot scheme for Gareth to see how he’s going to go forward in the next few weeks.
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