If you still believe in the sacredness of squad numbers, England’s starting XI to face Serbia on Sunday picks itself.

With no.3 Luke Shaw ruled out through injury, the players wearing 1 to 12 on the back of their shirts also happen to form the most likely team in the eyes of many.

Southgate faces some tough decisions ahead of matchday one

Jordan Pickford, Kyle Walker, John Stones, Marc Guehi, Kieran Trippier, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Declan Rice, Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden and Harry Kane. Sound about right?

While that might be the team Gareth Southgate picks, we see things a little differently ahead of the Euro 2024 opener, live on talkSPORT.

England’s star-studded attack puts them among the favourites in Germany, but holes in defence and midfield leave a number of places up for debate.

Breakfast host Jeff Stelling caused quite the stir with his XI earlier this week, with no room for Stones, Saka or Foden.

Stones, incidentally, may miss the game through illness after being quarantined with a sickness bug ahead of the Three Lions’ opener.

But assuming he recovers, this is this team talkSPORT host Adrian Durham, ex-England star Gabby Agbonlahor, and commentator Sam Matterface would pick in Gelsenkirchen…

Durham wants Crystal Palace star Adam Wharton to start

Explaining his selections, Durham said: “Start Wharton, he’s the Michael Carrick we need, the player no opponent will know. 

“He can pass, he has discipline, he has calmness, and the boy can PLAY. Get him in there! What are we waiting for?”

He added: “Bellingham and Rice can operate in all three midfield positions – 6, 8 and 10 – at any time. They’re super intelligent footballers. Just trust them two to know what they’re doing.

“The midfield does look a worry. Against Iceland, at times it was one ball and they were in behind us. I was thinking, ‘Where the bloody hell is the midfield? Why hasn’t someone closed down? Positionally, what is happening there?’

“With so much attacking talent, if you go out in a blaze of glory and use your attacking players well, then nobody can say it’s a wasted opportunity. Either it works and we win it or it doesn’t work and you realise we need to be more conservative.

“The squad he’s picked, I think he is going to be a bit more attacking, and that is what the people want. So we’ll see if it works.”

Agbonlahor would have Trippier dropped in favour of Joe Gomez

When asked to make the case for his team, Agbonlahor said: “If Shaw’s injured, I look at Trippier’s performances recently for Newcastle, I look at his performance against Iceland… they were getting in so easily.

“Our front six is so good, we need someone at the back who can play. Gomez has more aggression and pace than Trippier.

“Yes, Trippier is great at set-pieces, but we’ve got Trent [Alexander-Arnold]. So you don’t need Trippier’s set-pieces.

“Gomez would offer more pace and more aggression to that defence, especially with the inexperience of Guehi and Lewis Dunk.

“If you play either of them next to Stones, I just think Gomez helps with his strength and pace. He can play as well.

“I just don’t think Trippier has been good enough and there are better options.”

However, Agobnlahor added: “I really would’ve brought Tyrick Mitchell. He’s playing at Crystal Palace, who finished the season as the in-form team. He’s left-footed. Come on.

“We have one left-back who is left-footed. It makes a difference when players want to go outside.”

Matterface would go all-out attack with Anthony Gordon on the left

Arguing the case for his team, Matterface said: “It’s about using our attacking talents. We haven’t got a great defence, so the best thing to do is go on the front foot immediately.

“Then you’ve got every single chance of doing well, especially in the group stages.

“I think you have to be pragmatic at times. He might have to bring in Conor Gallagher to stiffen things up in the midfield – or Adam Wharton later on in the tournament – and Trent Alexander-Arnold is a great weapon from the bench.

“It’s an ambitious team. I don’t necessarily think Southgate will play that way. But that’s the one I’d pick.”


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