The predicted England 23-man squad for the 2018 World Cup
The predicted England 23-man squad for the 2018 World Cup
With qualification secured, it`s time for England manager Gareth Southgate to start seriously deliberating the 23 men he wants for his squad at the World Cup this summer.
With free betting options available, there`s increasing interest over which players will go to Russia.
Will the England manager look for fresh blood or will he rely on those who impressed during qualification?
Take a look below at the 23 players we think will make up The Lions squad this summer.
Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (West Ham), Jack Butland (Stoke), Jordan Pickford (Everton)
Despite his performances for West Ham this season, Joe Hart is a trusted member of the squad and unlike those competing with him, has 'big game experience`.
Sadly, for Tom Heaton, despite his consistent performances for Burnley over the years, we expect him to be miss the mark as he creeps through his 30s.
England have two great young goalkeepers, and potential number ones in Jack Butland and Jordan Pickford, so it could be important experience for the pair if they were to go to a major tournament. Butland sadly missed out on Euro 2016, after getting injured on international duty.
Joe Hart is 5/4 favourite with Sky Bet to start the first group game of the World Cup.
Defenders: Gary Cahill (Chelsea), John Stones (Man City), Phil Jones (Man United), Michael Keane (Everton), Kyle Walker (Man City), Kieran Trippier (Tottenham), Ryan Bertrand (Southampton), Danny Rose (Tottenham)
With the resurgence of John Stones and Phil Jones this season, England are beginning to look more comfortable in the defensive department. Gary Cahill is a certainty to go to Russia, and is still in line with Harry Kane and Jordan Henderson to get the England captaincy.
England are blessed in the full back department, with a selection of six or seven potential candidates. If two right backs and two left backs were to make the squad, we`d expect Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier, Ryan Bertrand and Danny Rose - if he can get back to full fitness.
This means that Liverpool`s Nathaniel Clyne, West Ham`s Aaron Cresswell and Manchester United`s Luke Shaw are likely to miss out.
Clyne would be the biggest shock to miss out, but after the emergence of Trent Alexander-Arnold at Liverpool, combined with his injuries, he may not have the opportunity to prove his fitness and form throughout the season. Who knows? Maybe the 18-year-old Alexander-Arnold could be in contention for a spot if he continues to progress throughout the season.
If there are any free bets on who will make the England squad this summer, then it will be very hard to pick between Manchester United centre half Chris Smalling and Everton`s Michael Keane. Keane is considered the favourite to need his passport with BetVictor rating his chances at 1/2, and we believe that he will get the nod too. Smalling`s poor performances and loss of first team place at Old Trafford are likely to contribute to his downfall.
Midfielders: Jake Livermore (West Brom), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Ross Barkley (Everton), Dele Alli (Tottenham) Raheem Sterling (Man City), Adam Lallana (Liverpool), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Liverpool)
Midfielders such as Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling and if fit, Adam Lallana pick themselves. This only leaves three midfield spaces left for a number of hopefuls.
Gareth Southgate is a big fan of West Brom`s Jake Livermore, having named him in all four England squads since his tenure began.
So far there`s been no indication that he will fall out any time soon, with a lack of competition in an area that used to boast the likes of Frank Lampard, Paul Scholes and Steven Gerrard. With space for another winger, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who has featured prominently throughout qualification is most likely to go, despite his numerous poor performances this season.
Despite failing to make the team sheet at all this season, Ross Barkley could well go to the World Cup if he gets his move away from Everton in January, or he gets his head down and gets back in The Toffees team.
There`s question marks still surrounding the Liverpool-born midfielder, but he is undoubtedly very talented as he has the ability to penetrate defences, and qualities like these can be essential against the better teams in the tournament.
Bookmaker Bet365 rate Barkley as an outsider to go the tournament, at 2/1.
Strikers: Harry Kane (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Jermaine Defoe (Bournemouth), Jamie Vardy (Leicester City)
In his current form, Harry Kane has to be the first name on the England team sheet, if he remains injury-free. In fact, he has the shortest odds out of any player to start the first group game with odds of 1/10 with bookmakers Sky Bet.
He is arguably the best striker that England have had since Alan Shearer, so the only question is, who`s going to go to Russia with him?
Marcus Rashford, Jamie Vardy and Danny Welbeck offer Southgate the versatility to play number 9, 7 and 11, and for these reasons they would be good options.
However, we believe they`ll take another out and out striker with them, meaning that Danny Welbeck will probably miss out with persistent questions marks around his fitness.
We believe that Jermaine Defoe will get the nod ahead of Daniel Sturridge due to the latter`s persistent injury troubles and poor performances this season.
He has been dislodged as England`s number 9, and we expect him to drop even further down the pecking order, the longer he`s on the Liverpool bench.
With eight months to go before the World Cup, don`t be shocked to see a number of surprise names emerge before the end of the season. Injuries are also part and parcel of football, and sadly the chances are likely that players will miss out in the cruellest way possible this summer.