Harry Maguire keeps his place, Jude Bellingham is a certain starter and James Maddison is handed a recall… Sportsmail’s experts pick their England teams for the World Cup
- England’s World Cup opener against Iran is now less than two months away
- Yet several places in Gareth Southgate’s starting line-up are still up for grabs
- However a number of Southgate’s go-to figures are without regular club minutes
- Sportsmail‘s football experts name their starting line-ups for the tournament
- Click here for all the latest World Cup 2022 news and updates
With less than two months to go ahead of the World Cup in November, England boss Gareth Southgate still looks unsure of his best side.
Five successive games without a win has hardly eased the pressure on his shoulders, as a nation braces for a first major tournament outing since the heartbreaking penalty shoot-out loss against Italy in the final of Euro 2020.
Here, Sportsmail‘s football experts pick their own best teams as the Three Lions continue to prepare for their tournament opener against Iran on November 21.
Several places in Gareth Southgate’s starting XI are still up for grabs ahead of the World Cup
(4-2-3-1): Pickford; Walker, Stones, Tomori, Chilwell; Rice, Bellingham; Foden, Maddison, Sterling; Kane
This would be my team to bring a bit of life to England. I’d start Fikayo Tomori in a back four because he has pace and by all accounts he’s doing brilliantly at AC Milan.
I can’t see Southgate switching to a back four but in the opening game against Iran — when England will be strong favourites — it would be the perfect sign of positivity.
In Jude Bellingham, there’s a confident young lad in terrific form who they must make the most out of and James Maddison would inject a bit of creativity into the side.
Since the start of last season only Harry Kane has more goals and assists than James Maddison
(4-3-3): Pickford; James, Maguire, Stones, Chilwell; Bellingham, Rice, Mount; Sterling, Kane, Foden
Southgate’s preference for a back five against the best teams is a move driven by caution and he can argue that it has worked at times.
England’s opener is against Iran, though, so it’s time to take the brakes off and seek a margin of victory that would inspire confidence to build on during the tournament.
Reece James and Ben Chilwell are the best two players in their positions while Mason Mount rarely fails to bring a high level to the international stage.
Jack Grealish, meanwhile, has been a valuable impact sub and that is where he should remain — to be used as a fresh pair of legs to come on and change a game.
Jack Grealish has impressed coming off the bench for England and should continue in this role
Luke Shaw is one of a number of England players not playing regular club football
(4-2-3-1): Pickford; Walker, Stones, Dier, Trippier; Rice, Bellingham; Foden, Mount, Sterling; Kane
There’s no justification for England to set up with a five-man defence in the group stages.
With all due respect to Iran, USA and Wales, those are games in which England should be assertive rather than being concerned with containing them in the final third.
A four-man defence will suffice. The inclusions of Eric Dier and Kieran Trippier are perhaps the biggest calls.
But both are playing regularly at their clubs, unlike Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire or Ben Chilwell.
If any of those three do play consistently between now and the World Cup then they should start.
(4-3-3): Pickford: Alexander-Arnold, Maguire, Stones, Chilwell: Bellingham, Henderson, Rice; Sterling, Kane, Foden
As much as I would like to think this would be the team to face Iran, I don’t for one moment envisage it will be.
I watch Trent Alexander-Arnold every week and have no doubts about his ability but will he be anything other than a squad player in Qatar?
Jordan Henderson has to be included for his experience, particularly with Kalvin Phillips out of the frame.
The front three picks itself and anyone who thinks Jack Grealish is unfortunate to miss out need only look at the stupid booking he received against Italy on Friday.
Trent Alexander-Arnold’s quality is clear but what’s not is whether he will be a regular starter
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