England training notes suggest Sterling could be dropped for Rashford

Gareth Southgate is considering dropping Raheem Sterling for Sundays game against Panama after photographs taken of the England coaching staffs training notes appeared to show Marcus Rashford would step up

Gareth Southgate is considering dropping Raheem Sterling for Sundays game against Panama with photographs taken of the England coaching staffs training notes appearing to show Marcus Rashford would step up for the game in Nizhny Novgorod.

The assistant manager, Steve Holland, may have accidentally revealed Englands lineup after being pictured walking on to the training pitch at Spartak Zelenogorsks stadium carrying a sheet of paper that seemed to identify Southgates team for the second Group G fixture. On it, the first-choice selection appeared to be detailed in formation with each players under-study listed underneath.

The lineup indicated Ruben Loftus-Cheek would replace the injured Dele Alli, who was listed as medical at the foot and had remained at the team hotel to receive treatment on a thigh injury. Rashford, who made a 22 minute cameo against Tunisia last Monday, was placed alongside the captain, Harry Kane, in attack with Sterling actually listed as Loftus-Cheeks back-up in an attacking No 8 role. That would suggest the Manchester City forward will start on the substitutes bench.

Steve Hollands notes appeared to show Marcus Rashford starting against Panama. Photograph: Lee Smith/Reuters

Southgate, who dislocated his right shoulder on Wednesday while jogging but chose not to carry his arm in a sling, has been hugely supportive of Sterling since assuming the reins of the national team, standing by the forward as he found himself caught in a media storm before the tournament over a tattoo of an M-16 assault rifle on his right calf and praising the players initially energetic display against Tunisia. However, the 23-year-olds performance dipped as the game progressed in Volgograd and he was eventually replaced by Rashford as England pursued a winner.

Sterling has now gone 21 caps without a goal, stretching back to October 2015, with his replacement offering a more obvious direct threat alongside Kane. Rashford missed two training sessions in Englands first week in Repino after suffering a knock to his knee at St Georges Park before the squads departure for Russia, but has now proved his fitness. His impressive display against Costa Rica in Leeds before the tournament has effectively thrust him ahead of Jamie Vardy in the pecking order up front.

Englands session on Thursday was their first properly gearing up for Sundays game against Panama, beaten 3-0 by Belgium in their World Cup opener, when qualification for the knockout phase can potentially be secured. Unless this is a deliberate attempt to mislead their opponents this weekend, then the leak of the proposed team would appear to constitute an embarrassment for the Football Association.

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While Southgate is apparently relaxed about revealing his team and chose to inform his players of his choice 48 hours before the Tunisia fixture, Holland is understood to be the driving force behind maintaining secrecy over selection. The squad train behind 3m-high fences in Zelenogorsk, with heavy security around the complex.

Sterlings clubmate Vincent Kompany hopes to declare himself fit for Belgiums game against England next Thursday. Dedryck Boyata is expected to start again against Tunisia on Sunday but Kompany may be considered for a return in what could prove to be the game that decides which team tops Group G.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2018/jun/21/england-training-notes-raheem-sterling-marcus-rashford-team-world-cup

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