England manager Gareth Southgate has provided an injury update on James Maddison and Kyle Walker, while explaining why his starting XI against Iran is bound to split opinion.
Besides questions over shape, tactics and personnel, there is one player in Southgate’s squad who will definitely not feature against Iran.
Leicester midfielder Maddison has not trained since England arrived in Qatar after suffering a knee injury during the 2-0 win at West Ham.
Southgate told talkSPORT: “He hasn’t been able to train, so that is a slight concern. The longer that continues, the longer it will take him to be available for the matches.
“But we’re not expecting him to miss training for much longer and we’ll just have to assess it from there.”
However, there is more positive news regarding Walker, who has not played competitive football since Manchester City’s victory over Man United in October.
The right-back has effectively ruled himself out of the opener against Iran, but Southgate says his recovery is ahead of schedule.
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Southgate added: “He’s close, he’s training with the group, so he’s slightly ahead of where we thought he might be.
“He’s an incredible athlete anyway, so he’s got some natural advantages that one or two other players haven’t got.
“But also, the rehabilitation link between ourselves and Manchester City’s medical team has been excellent throughout.
“We are really pleased with his progress, we didn’t expect him to be training with the team until after first game and he’s a couple of games ahead of that.”
England are comfortably the highest-ranked team in Group B, which contains USA and Wales as well as Iran, and many are clamouring for Southgate to unleash all-out attack.
However, when asked about the benefits of four defenders rather than five, the pragmatic Three Lions manager delivered an amusing anecdote to explain why his team selection will never please everyone.
Southgate continued: “There are strengths and weaknesses to every system. It’s most important that you have the right personnel to be able to hurt the opposition and to have stability in the team.
“Whichever way we end up going, that is always what we are trying to achieve. Our job is to pick the team that we believe gives us the best chance of winning.
“Ours will be the only one that isn’t hypothetical. Whenever I go on coaching courses, one of the first things I do is ask everyone in the room to write their England team down.
“I ask them who they’ve got in goal and we eliminate those who haven’t agreed [with the majority]. Then we go to right-back and we keep the most popular selection in each position.
“We never get past the halfway line before the whole room has disagreed completely. So what chance have we got for getting a consensus? Frankly, a consensus wouldn’t work.”
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