Sterling looks a safe investment for Croatia starting spot but Jordan needs a comeback

Mason mounts a challenge for England midfield role, with Foden also enhancing Euros chances.

Thanks to comfortable victories over San Marino and Albania, England look well on their way to World Cup qualification.

But with the Three Lions yet to be tested, can we really read anything into the mind of Gareth Southgate ahead of the Euros?

Let's hope so. Because as they build up to kick-off against Croatia on June 13, Planet Sport is taking a weekly look at England's starting XI, as predicted by the Sky Bet odds.


Jordan Pickford (8/13 via Sky Bet to start against Croatia)

Despite being ruled out of the current batch of qualifiers, Pickford remains the firm favourite to don England's No.1 shirt come the summer.

Now injury seems the only thing that can prevent him starting between the sticks against Croatia.

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Nick Pope (5/2)

Pope fans (followers?) would argue he's done all he can after six clean sheets in six England appearances.

The Burnley keeper was faultless in, admittedly comfortable, victories over San Marino and Albania and even had time to clatter Harry Maguire for good measure.

His chance in a big game will come but whether that is against Croatia still looks doubtful.


Harry Maguire (1/5 via Sky Bet)

After being rested in the match against San Marino, Maguire started against Albania and produced a solid display alongside John Stones at the heart of the England defence.

Provided he stays fit, and stays clear of Nick Pope, Maguire is nailed on to start against Croatia.

John Stones (1/3)

After featuring in both international fixtures this week, Stones looks the frontrunner to partner Maguire.

His return to form and confidence couldn't have come at a better time.

Luke Shaw (8/11)

Shaw has had to be patient in his journey back to the England side, a trait he had to show once more after he was named on the bench against San Marino.

But after being handed a start against Albania, Shaw continued his good form, registering an assist for Harry Kane's opener.

As ever, Shaw looked threatening down the left flank, linking up well with Raheem Sterling. But with Ben Chilwell also impressing against San Marino, the competition for the left-back spot looks to be heating up.

Kyle Walker (5/6)

In the space of a week, England's right-back spot has been occupied by Reece James, Kieran Trippier and Walker. And with Trent Alexander-Arnold yet to return from injury, the battle for the starting spot is one of Gareth Southgate's biggest headaches.

Walker remains the man in possession, however. Despite missing out against San Marino, he completed the full 90 minutes against Albania and once again showed his dependable (bland?) qualities.

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Ben Chilwell (11/8)

Chilwell produced a display brimming with attacking intent against San Marino.

Despite not being challenged defensively, Chilwell's overlapping runs caused havoc among the San Marino defence, resulting in a number of chances for the Three Lions.

Chilwell still remains second favourite behind Shaw but more will become clear when Southgate makes his left-back choice for an altogether tougher test against Poland on Wednesday.

Kieran Trippier (7/4)

Trippier was limited to a second-half cameo against a limited San Marino. Naturally, it limited his chances to impress.

READ MORE: Five international games you should watch this week


Declan Rice (4/9 from 1/2 via Sky Bet)

Rice touched the ball 126 times against Albania and had a 97.3% pass accuracy. Only a 0% high five accuracy soured his evening. He's starting against Croatia.

Mason Mount (8/15 from 4/6)

After prominently featuring in both fixtures this week, Mount is now seen as a more likely start against Croatia than Jordan Henderson.

Featuring predominantly as a central midfielder, Mount provided England with an abundance of energy, while also heavily contributing to attacking movements.

According to Squawka, no player created more chances than Mount in the game against San Marino (8).

And against Albania, Mount showed his eye for goal, securing the win for England with a deft finish into the bottom corner.

Jordan Henderson (11/10 from 4/6)

After joining Liverpool's lengthy injury list, Henderson can only watch as a host of rivals audition for his place.

But with the Reds skipper expected to be fighting fit before the Euros come around, his irreplaceable leadership and experience means he is still expected to make the midfield three.

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Phil Foden (5/4)

At the tender age of 20, Foden is one of the most exciting prospects in world soccer. His close control and ability to unlock a defence has made him a threatening proposition for any defence.

Having made his international debut in the UEFA Nations League last year, Foden expanded on his England experience this week after featuring against both San Marino and Albania.

He has regularly featured in the attacking third of the pitch, often appearing on either side of the attack. But with many considering his best position in midfield, Foden could offer Southgate the option of forming a dynamic trio alongside more defensive-minded midfielders such as Rice and Henderson.

Kalvin Phillips (6/1)

After making his international debut last September against Denmark, Phillips has shown no signs of slowing down in his pursuit of a starting spot.

In the absence of Henderson, the Leeds United star has provided the England midfield with stability. His ability to protect the defence and distribute the ball forward quickly has been well appreciated by Gareth Southgate, who started Phillips against both San Marino and Albania.

Phillips still has a long way to go to cement his place in the Euros squad, but after performing well in the past week, he looks well on his way to giving Southgate a midfield dilemma this summer.


Harry Kane (1/6 via Sky Bet)

A well-taken header against Albania ended his England goal drought. But let's face it, he could have sat in the centre circle smoking a pipe for the whole 90 minutes and he'd still be the first name on the teamsheet come June 13.

Raheem Sterling (1/3)

Only Kane has scored more for England than Sterling under Gareth Southgate's stewardship.

And after netting against San Marino this week, the Manchester City winger once again showed why he remains a vital part of Southgate's plans as he gears up for the summer.

Despite struggling for City this season, Sterling's pace and directness in attack has proved to still be a deadly combination for England going forward. And with the likes of Jack Grealish and Marcus Rashford absent through injury, Sterling showed no sign of relaxing his grip on a starting berth.

Jadon Sancho (10/11)

After suffering a muscle injury against Monchengladbach in the DBF-Pokal quarter final this month, Sancho was ruled out of the international break, with an expected return date in April.

But even after missing the recent games against San Marino and Albania, Sancho remains the favourite with Sky Bet to join Sterling and Kane in England's forward line.

And, with Grealish and Rashford often preferring the left side of the attack, Sancho's natural ability on the right wing makes him the ideal candidate to complete England's attacking trio.

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Dominic Calvert-Lewin (6/1)

After scoring twice against San Marino in the week, the only thing standing between Calvert-Lewin and a starting spot in the Euros is a certain Harry Kane.

The Everton striker has enjoyed his most successful season, scoring 23 goals for club and country.

And while the chances of beating Kane to a starting spot look slim to none, Calvert-Lewin's aerial ability and presence in the box are likely to be assets used from the bench by Southgate this summer.

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