England vs Croatia: Selection dilemmas facing Gareth Southgate
Who starts at full-back? Does Jadon Sancho get the nod in attack?
By Nick Wright
Last Updated: 17/11/18 1:02pm
England face Croatia in a crunch UEFA Nations League clash live on Sky Sports on Sunday and Gareth Southgate has big decisions to make regarding his team selection.
Who should he select as his full-backs against the side who dumped England out of the World Cup just four months ago? And should he unleash Jadon Sancho from the start?
We take a look at the selection dilemmas facing the England boss ahead of a Group A4 clash which will decide who books their place in the Nations League finals - and who suffers relegation.
Full-back: Youth or experience?
Joe Gomez is likely to partner John Stones in the absence of the injured Harry Maguire at centre-back, but it is less clear who Southgate will deploy as his full-backs.
Kyle Walker is perhaps the most obvious choice at right-back, with Kieran Trippier injured, but the Manchester City star faces stiff competition from Trent Alexander-Arnold, who scored England's second goal and won the man-of-the-match award against the USA on Thursday.
Alexander-Arnold was lavished with praise after the game, describing it as "a dream come true" to score on his first Wembley appearance for his country, but the 20-year-old only has five caps to Walker's 43. Has he done enough to usurp his more senior team-mate?
Southgate faces a similarly tricky decision at left-back. Leicester's Ben Chilwell shone when he made his debut in the goalless draw against Croatia last month and kept his place against both Spain and the USA, but Southgate can also call on a resurgent Luke Shaw.
Midfield question marks
Southgate used a midfield three of Harry Winks, Fabian Delph and Dele Alli against the USA on Thursday but there are plenty of others pushing for inclusion against Croatia.
Eric Dier will be the favourite to replace Delph in the holding role having started there in each of England's previous Nations League games, while Liverpool's Jordan Henderson will also be hoping for a recall having been a second-half substitute on Thursday.
Alli will be confident of keeping his place but what of his Tottenham team-mate Winks? The 22-year-old was impressive in last month's 3-2 win over Spain, but he faces competition from Ross Barkley, who has shone for Chelsea this season, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek is also in the mix.
Watch England v Croatia on Sky Sports
See England face Croatia in the UEFA Nations League, live on Sky Sports Football
It leaves Southgate with plenty to ponder, but with Luka Modric pulling the strings for Croatia, he knows he can't afford to get his midfield selection wrong.
Stick with Sancho?
Jadon Sancho's extraordinary rise continued with an impressive full England debut against the USA on Thursday. The 18-year-old was completely unfazed on the Wembley stage, proving a constant threat to the visitors with his speed, movement and dribbling ability.
The question now is whether or not Southgate will stick with him in a crunch game. Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling are all but certain to start given their importance to Southgate's team, but the third attacking spot is not set in stone.
Will Marcus Rashford get the nod having scored one goal and set up another in the 3-2 win over Spain? Has his Manchester United team-mate Jesse Lingard played his way into the team with his goalscoring performance against the USA? Or is it time to unleash Sancho?
Southgate might even be tempted to find a place for Bournemouth's Callum Wilson, who marked his debut with a goal on Thursday night.Now use our team selector to pick your England XI against Croatia…