Gareth Southgate's England selection dilemma ahead of Nations League finals

Watch every minute of the Nations League finals live on Sky Sports from June 5 to June 9

England manager Gareth Southgate's tactics are in the spotlight
Image: Gareth Southgate has some tough decisions to make

England travel to Portugal for the inaugural Nations League finals this week - but who should Gareth Southgate entrust to bring home the silverware?

Twelve months on from their World Cup heroics in Russia, the Three Lions go in search of what would be only their second victory in an overseas tournament.

Live UEFA Nations League

But with Thursday's semi-final against the Netherlands in Guimaraes taking place just five days after the Champions League final, England manager Southgate is faced with a selection dilemma after less than ideal preparations for the tournament.

England squad for Nations League finals

Goalkeepers: Jack Butland (Stoke), Tom Heaton (Burnley), Jordan Pickford (Everton)

Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Ben Chilwell (Leicester), Joe Gomez (Liverpool), Michael Keane (Everton), Harry Maguire (Leicester), Danny Rose (Tottenham), John Stones (Manchester City), Kyle Walker (Manchester City)

Raheem Sterling and his England team-mates will compete for Nations League glory on Sky this summer 0:30
Sky Sports is the only place to watch the UEFA Nations League, including England's semi-final against the Netherlands

Midfielders: Dele Alli (Tottenham), Ross Barkley (Chelsea), Fabian Delph (Manchester City), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Declan Rice (West Ham)

Forwards: Harry Kane (Tottenham), Jesse Lingard (Manchester United), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Callum Wilson (Bournemouth)

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Champions League finalists in the fold?

Seven members of Southgate's squad were involved in Saturday's Champions League final in Madrid, three from Liverpool and four from Tottenham.

Jordan Henderson lifts Champions League trophy
Image: Will Jordan Henderson get his hands on the Nations League trophy after guiding Liverpool to the Champions League?

Liverpool's victorious trio of Jordan Henderson, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez may take the rigors of the congested schedule in their stride after helping to secure the Reds' sixth European title, though they may arrive in Portugal weary after their celebrations on Merseyside.

For Spurs, the manner of their defeat in Madrid may play on the minds of Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Danny Rose and Eric Dier for years to come, so whether Southgate deems them to be ready - both physically and mentally - to slot back into his team remains to be seen.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 22: XXX during the 2020 UEFA European Championships group A qualifying match between England and Czech Republic at Wembley Stadium on March 22, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images) 1:02
Michael Keane admits England's preparation for the Nations League finals has not been ideal due to the delayed arrival of a number of their players

Kane fit to play?

Spurs captain Kane was handed his first start since April 9 in the Champions League final, but his return from ankle injury failed to inspire his side in what proved to be a toothless attacking display.

Image: Will Harry Kane be thrust into the England starting line-up against the Netherlands?

It came as no surprise to see Kane off the pace, after all he'd missed the last two months of Spurs' season since injuring himself in the quarter-final first leg against Manchester City.

Mauricio Pochettino took a gamble replacing Lucas Moura for Kane in Madrid, it will be interesting to see whether Southgate follows suit or takes heed from Saturday's events in the Spanish capital.

Alternative attacking options?

The chances of Kane missing arguably the most important game in Tottenham's history were slim to none but, for England and Southgate, the array of attacking alternatives they have at their disposal means the Spurs skipper is not necessarily a shoo-in for Thursday's semi-final against Holland.

Jadon Sancho was making his fourth senior appearance for England
Image: Could Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho shoulder the attacking burden if Southgate opts against starting Harry Kane?

Marcus Rashford could lead the line were Kane not preferred from the start, while the deployment of Raheem Sterling and Jadon Sancho either side of the Manchester United forward would present a formidable prospect for the Dutch defence to contend with.

With Kane playing the entirety of the Champions League final, Southgate's hand may well be forced into utilising fresher options with a view to turning to Kane in a potential final on Sunday.

Debate: Sancho or Rashford?

England's attacking options were a talking point on the first edition of the Nations League Supplement podcast.

Host Neil Ashton was joined by The Times' Henry Winter and The Independent's Jack Pitt-Brooke to discuss the merits of starting Marcus Rashford or Jadon Sancho.

Marcus Rashford
Image: Will Marcus Rashford get the nod from Southgate to start against the Netherlands?

Pitt-Brooke: "I'd pick Kane, then from the other two forwards, I'd certainly play Raheem Sterling, who is in the form of his life. I'd probably go for Rashford - who does have a good record in an England shirt. The wildcard option would be to play Sancho, but it would be a huge call to bring him in.

"Rashford has been let down by managerial appointments at Manchester United. He'd be better off if United got a top-class manager in. If they had a Jurgen Klopp, Mauricio Pochettino or Pep Guardiola - the young players would rise to another level. There does come a time when a player gets to an age where they need to take responsibility for their performances. The United youngsters haven't been doing that."

Winter: "If you played Sancho, he wouldn't be fazed. There is no fear. I wouldn't have any problems with Sancho starting. These young players are expressing themselves. That England shirt can weigh but there's no fear anymore."

LISTEN: Nations League Supplement

LISTEN: Nations League Supplement

England's progress, Portugal's stars - listen to the first edition of the Nations League Supplement podcast here.

The midfield conundrum

Also on the agenda for the Nations League Supplement panel was England's midfield. Who should start in central midfield against the Netherlands?

Pitt-Brooke: "We don't know England's best midfield. Once Gareth Southgate lands on that we'll have a serious team."

Winter: "Central midfield is England's one real issue. In attacking and defending positions England are fine. Harry Winks isn't in Portugal but I'm sure in the long term Southgate will want to build around him and Declan Rice.

Declan Rice in action during the UEFA Euro 2020, Group A qualification match between England and Czech Replublic at Wembley Stadium in London on March 22, 2019
Image: Declan Rice is in contention to start in England's midfield on Thursday

"I'd like to see Jordan Henderson start, there's a lot to take from feeding off the adrenaline and momentum of the Liverpool boys. After the final, when talking to Jordan, it was like talking to a different individual - he was standing up taller. There was a player who had come out of Steven Gerrard's shadow. He'd lifted that trophy and shown what he can do….Henderson completely embodies what Southgate wants, as in being a good citizen, and a very good player.

"I think he'll play Rice, probably Ross Barkley and Henderson."

Listen to the Nations League Supplement podcast in full HERE!

Pick your England XI vs Netherlands

Nations League live on Sky Sports

You can watch every minute of the Nations League finals live on Sky Sports.

Live UEFA Nations League

Portugal vs Switzerland - Wednesday 5 June from 7pm, live on Sky Sports Football and Sky Sports Main Event; Kick-off at 7.45pm.

Netherlands vs England - Thursday 6 June from 7pm, live on Sky Sports Football and Sky Sports Main Event; Kick-off at 7.45pm.

Live UEFA Nations League

Third and fourth place play-off - Sunday 9 June from 1.30pm, live on Sky Sports Football and Sky Sports Main Event; Kick-off at 2pm.

Live UEFA Nations League

Nations League final - Sunday 9 June from 7pm, live on Sky Sports Football and Sky Sports Main Event; Kick-off at 7.45pm.

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