Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling are expected to start for England against Croatia in Sunday’s Euro 2020 Group D opener, Sky Sports News has learnt.
The Manchester City pair will partner captain Harry Kane in attack as England seek a winning start at Wembley.
Neither Foden or Sterling featured for England in their warm-up wins over Romania and Austria but they did start alongside Kane in England’s last competitive fixture, the 2-1 World Cup qualifying win over Poland in March.
Foden was one of Manchester City’s standout players as they regained the Premier League title, retained the Carabao Cup and reached the Champions League final. The 21-year-old scored 16 goals, with Sterling finding the net 14 times.
Former England defender Gary Neville said: “Mason Mount is going to play, unless something happens with his form or injury, and then you are talking about starting either Foden or Jack Grealish and then one of the quicker players, which are Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Sterling.
“With Harry Kane up front, you do need one of those wider forwards to make sure they run past him. If everyone is coming naturally to the ball, then it becomes a little more difficult for Harry.
“The balance feels right but it does mean that with the game being played in such heat, Grealish or Rashford could come on at any point. They’re great options for Gareth Southgate to try and change the game if needed.”
England have never won their opening match at a European Championship and suffered an extra-time defeat against Croatia in the 2018 World Cup semi-finals.
Paul Merson picked Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling in his England team to face Croatia and he explained why Gareth Southgate’s team cannot be taken in by their opponents’ poor form.
‘The Magic Man’, who went to two finals tournaments with England in the 1990s, told Sky Sports why England must approach their opening game with a back three, with a ‘cup final’ against Scotland coming up after their clash with Croatia.
“I’ve watched enough of the last couple of games to see we’ve not got anyone who’s prepared to run without the ball,” said Merson.
“Sterling will do that, we need that. If we don’t run without the ball, I don’t see how we’re going to do anything. He’s not been in great form, but he runs without the ball and that’s the one shining light I’ve seen in the last couple of games, no-one’s really prepared to run without the ball.
“I don’t think we’re good enough at the back, you’ve seen that in the last couple of games and that’s average teams, average teams. Romania aren’t even going to the tournament, and it was harder to not qualify than to get there.
“They went through us a bit too easily; people will say that isn’t our proper team, but this is a game where you can’t afford to lose – you’ve got to be a bit cagey and have that insurance at the back.”