England squad preview: James Maddison, Jack Grealish and other decisions

As Gareth Southgate prepares to name his squad for a trio of matches this October, there are a number of key decisions to be made. Watch England's Nations League games against Belgium (Oct 11) and Denmark (Oct 14) live on Sky Sports Main Event...

Leicester's James Maddison and Aston Villa's Jack Grealish
Image: Leicester's James Maddison and Aston Villa's Jack Grealish are in the frame

As Gareth Southgate prepares to name his England squad at 2pm on Thursday for a trio of matches this October, there are a number of key decisions to be made.

Sky Sports News understand that Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood will be omitted this time around as a result of their indiscretions last month, so who are in line to profit from the events in Iceland?

Has the goalkeeper debate been resolved? How will Ben Chilwell's return alter the full-back situation? And what about the wider problem of a perceived lack of creativity?

Ahead of the friendly against Wales on October 8 and the Nations League games against Belgium (Oct 11) and Denmark (Oct 14) that follow, we assess the key questions...

Pickford still the man in possession?

Jordan Pickford

Jordan Pickford justified Gareth Southgate's faith in him with two clean sheets in the Nations League games last month and was arguably England's best performer against Denmark. Three wins out of three for Everton will have improved his confidence even though he did attract criticism for his goalkeeping in a 5-2 Carabao Cup win over Fleetwood Town.

The fact that there are three international games inside a week should open up the possibility of more rotation than was seen in the previous get-together and that should be good news for Nick Pope. The Burnley goalkeeper was unfortunate to miss out on some action last time around but can expect to win his third England cap next month.

Dean Henderson is the other option, of course, but his prospects have been compromised by the fact that he now finds himself on the bench at Manchester United after returning from his loan spell at Sheffield United. The 23-year-old goalkeeper did produce a stunning save against Luton in the Carabao Cup, but has he done enough to earn an England debut?

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What next for the full-back situation?

Ben Chilwell

Chilwell is just about back fit for Chelsea - a relief for Southgate after he was heavily criticised for not selecting a single left-back in the September internationals - though his club side may not be overjoyed with a competitive England camp and three internationals after a period of absence.

Kieran Trippier played on the left against both Iceland (in a four) and Denmark (in a five), an experiment which didn't exactly fly, meaning Southgate should look to a naturally left-sided full-back.

But behind Chilwell, English left-backs aren't exactly banging at the door. Bukayo Saka has stayed on the bench for two of Arsenal's three Premier League games this season, while Brandon Williams hasn't played a top-flight minute for Manchester United this term.

One to keep an eye on is Trent Alexander-Arnold's England form. The 21-year-old has never quite recreated his Liverpool performances for Southgate; is he exposed more defensively? The England boss will be desperate to find a role for him that maximises his strengths.

Time to embrace England's creative options?

Rangers' Ryan Kent (centre) celebrates making it 1-0 against Dundee United
Image: Rangers' Ryan Kent could be a surprise inclusion for the forthcoming games

The Premier League has seen 103 goals in 28 games at an average of 3.68 goals per match so far, so will this lend itself to Southgate setting up his team more offensively?

James Maddison is back fit and scored arguably the best of the first century of goals this term against Manchester City, while Jack Grealish is growing in maturity with unbeaten Aston Villa. While Dele Alli would at this stage be a surprise inclusion, Maddison and Grealish can expect call-ups.

Live UEFA Nations League

England's wealth of forward-thinking players extends beyond the Premier League, with Ryan Kent's impressive form at Rangers putting him on Gareth Southgate's radar. Rangers rejected an offer from Leeds last month for the 23-year-old, but Southgate has already shown a willingness to experiment with these Nations League encounters by calling up Kalvin Phillips last month.

Phillips was deployed as one of two anchormen alongside Declan Rice in a 3-4-3 against Denmark, but it was not a system that suited his skillset - accustomed as he is to playing as the solo pivot under Marcelo Bielsa - and nor did it feel necessary to have two holding midfielders against tepid opponents.

Southgate is likely to pick his strongest side for the opening Belgium challenge, a good barometer ahead of next summer's European Championships, but Denmark's trip to Wembley three days later offers the opportunity to look at other creative options, and the former Liverpool winger has earned his chance.

Calvert-Lewin ready to seize his chance

Calvert-Lewin celebrates scoring his second of the game
Image: Calvert-Lewin has scored five Premier League goals already this season

Dominic Calvert-Lewin spoke last month of it being his "dream since he was a young boy" to represent England.

"I want to play for my country and it's something I'm working to do and aspiring to every day," he said in an interview with TalkSPORT.

After hitting a career-best 15 goals last term, Calvert-Lewin's stellar start to the new campaign has propelled his side to three wins from three in the Premier League and Southgate may feel England can profit from the Carlo Ancelotti effect.

The Premier League's joint-leading marksman with five goals, the 23-year-old has benefitted from being the focal point in an attacking trident involving Richarlison and James Rodriguez - and the England manager will be encouraged by Ancelotti's tactical alteration to a 4-3-3 system that can similarly be deployed by the national team.

Calvert-Lewin became the first player to score in each of Everton's first three Premier League games in a single campaign since Steven Naismith in 2014/15 - and with the Wales friendly and Denmark encounter straddling the Belgium showdown, Southgate has the chance to try out a functioning Plan B in the event of Harry Kane's absence.

And finally... what do the stats tell us?

Power Rankings England XI based on form this season

If Southgate were to pick his squad purely on form, as per the Sky Sports Power Rankings, his England team would look very different indeed.

Grealish would finally be in line for his first international start while there would be an opportunity for Leicester full-back James Justin too.

A word as well for those English players impressing north of the border - it is not only Kent but also James Tavernier who has made a strong start to the season with Rangers.

Watch England in the Nations League on Sky Sports

Gareth Southgate insists he will not "hurt" Greenwood and Foden any more
Image: Follow Gareth Southgate's England live on Sky Sports this autumn

Watch England's Nations League games against Belgium (Oct 11) and Denmark (Oct 14) live on Sky Sports Main Event.

From England's quest to improve on their third-place finish in last year's competition to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland's pursuit of promotion from League B, we will bring you all the twists and turns along the way.

As well as our live coverage, if you are out and about, you can follow all of those Home Nations games on the Sky Sports website and app, where we will have minute-by-minute updates and show you the goals as they go in.

We will also have highlights of every game involving the Home Nations and the best of the other Nations League fixtures available too.

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