Southgate's options against Albania with Rice and Mount out

Stick Foden at No 10, trust in 18-year-old Bellingham or throw in debutant Smith Rowe from the start! Gareth Southgate’s options as he prepares to face Albania without key men Declan Rice and Mason Mount… and Jack Grealish could be missing too

  • Mason Mount and Declan Rice will both miss Friday’s match against Albania
  • Gareth Southgate must now look at alternative options for his England midfield 
  • Phil Foden, Jude Bellingham and Emile Smith Rowe are all options in the No 10 
  • The Three Lions are three points clear of Poland as they target a World Cup spot 

With two games to go, Gareth Southgate knows that four points will guarantee England’s place at next year’s World Cup in Qatar. What could possibly go wrong? 

On paper, their final two games against Albania and San Marino are straightforward affairs. The Three Lions boss won’t be taking any chances though and will pick his strongest side at Wembley on Friday night. 

He has already been dealt a double blow, however, with key midfielders Mason Mount and Declan Rice both ruled out of the opening fixture, and Jack Grealish a doubt with illness.

Southgate will have look to elsewhere but he is not short of options. Sportsmail takes a look at all the potential possibilities ahead of Friday encounter. 

Mason Mount (left) and Declan Rice (right) have both been ruled out of the game with Albania

Gareth Southgate will pick his strongest side on Friday as he looks to seal a World Cup place


This seems the likeliest scenario. 

The Manchester City star was trialled in a deeper playmaker role in the last international break with varied success – man of the match against Andorra before being brought back down to reality in the draw against Hungary. 

Now though, with Mount absent, the 21-year-old could get a go in a more advanced role centrally, behind Harry Kane with Southgate sticking to his usual 4-2-3-1 formation.

Squeezing one of English football’s brightest prospects into an area of the squad littered with talent has been a problem Southgate has been trying to solve – but no Mount gives the England boss an obvious solution this time. 

Foden even scored a bicycle kick in training on Tuesday caught on camera. Bang in form with his club, it would raise some eyebrows if he did not make the starting XI. 

Phil Foden was trailed in a deeper role in October but is likely to play further forward on Friday 


Left out of October’s squad to manage his workload after a busy first season in senior top-flight football, Jude Bellingham is back at St George’s Park this time round. 

The Borussia Dortmund star could hardly have been left out this time, given his sumptuous form for the Germans including a sublime solo effort against Arminia Bielefeld. 

With eight caps already to his name, including three at Euro 2020, Bellingham has mostly been used from the bench at the beginning of his international career. 

Don’t be surprised, however, if Southgate starts the 18-year-old against Albania. Bellingham has already shown maturity beyond his years and his athleticism and dribbling ability could complement Jordan Henderson and Kalvin Phillips in a three-man in central midfield.

Bellingham is also more naturally inclined to drop deeper, should Southgate want to approach this one in a more guarded fashion.  

Jude Bellingham has already registered eight caps but did miss the last international window 

The 18-year-old had to be called-up this time though, such is his form for Borussia Dortmund 


This now seems a certainty with Rice now ruled out with illness and Kalvin Phillips having nailed down a spot in Southgate’s preferred starting XI.

The Liverpool captain is an integral, senior member of the squad and is a natural replacement for Rice, who plays in a similar fashion. 

Returning Henderson to the starting XI would also allow Southgate to retain his 4-2-3-1 formation, with two more defensively-minded central midfielders.

Henderson is valued highly by Southgate, on and off the pitch, and it would be a major surprise if he doesn’t start on Friday night.

Jordan Henderson could feature from the start now that Rice has been ruled out with illness

Kalvin Phillips and Rice have become Southgate’s preferred midfield duo over the last year


This would also be a shock, given three-at-the-back is a formation Southgate has used only against the toughest opponents since the 2018 World Cup. 

The advantages to this? You could squeeze in Kyle Walker and one of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Reece James – three of the most in-form players in the squad who all play in the same role. 

Further ahead, Bukayo Saka could get the nod on the wing with his pace, particularly with Grealish a serious doubt for Albania after complaining of illness.Raheem Sterling is a guaranteed starter under Southgate. 

This 3-4-3 formation would allow players to naturally cut in to where Mount would usually place himself on the pitch. It’s worked before – could Southgate tinker with his formation again? 

Manchester City star Jack Grealish is a major doubt for Friday night’s game due to illness

Raheem Sterling (L) is guaranteed to start but will Bukayo Saka join him in the starting XI? 


Emile Smith Rowe is Southgate’s newest wildcard.

Making the step up from the Under-21s following the withdrawals of Marcus Rashford and James Ward-Prowse, the Arsenal man has been in brilliant form over the past month or so, scoring the winner at the weekend against Watford. 

His dribbling abilities, positional nous and work ethic means he should slot in to Southgate’s tight-knit environment seamlessly.

It’s also Albania, not Poland, and Smith Rowe certainly wouldn’t be thrown in at the deep end after showing his class this year under Mikel Arteta.

However, a debut against San Marino next Monday is more probable.  

Emile Smith Rowe is Southgate’s newest wildcard after his call-up from the Under-21s 

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