England players think Gareth Southgate ‘has his favourites’ ahead of tonight’s clash with Czech Republic, according to reports. The Three Lions enter the contest with their qualification to the Euro 2020 knockout stages already assured. But they have a point to prove, having struggled against Scotland last time out.
England have endured a mixed start to their Euro 2020 campaign.
They were good against Croatia in their opening showdown, winning 1-0 courtesy of a second half goal by Raheem Sterling.
But England were dire in their goalless draw with Scotland, with fans jeering them off the Wembley pitch in the aftermath.
Southgate’s side are already through to the next round of Euro 2020 but will be looking to top the group when they face off against Czech Republic tonight.
Yet, ahead of that game, The Athletic say England players believe the 50-year-old ‘has his favourites’.
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It’s claimed members of the dressing room consider Mason Mount to be one of those, with the Chelsea star starting both matches at the tournament so far.
However, with Mount isolating after coming into close contact with Billy Gilmour, it’s now possible he’ll miss out on a starting berth this evening.
Another one of Southgate’s favourites is believed to be Jordan Henderson, with the Liverpool star fighting to get fit in time for the competition’s knockout stages.
And Sterling himself is a third member of the squad who England players think is in the 50-year-old’s good books.
It’s claimed England players have noted Southgate’s reluctance at lavishing big praise on Jack Grealish when speaking at media events, while the Aston Villa star’s camp are far from happy.
Those close to Grealish reportedly find it hard to accept players like Sterling, who struggled for Manchester City last term, are picked ahead of the playmaker.
And they also think Southgate ‘always has an excuse up his sleeve to leave him out’ – while also believing it’s a ‘blind spot on the manager’s part’.
Grealish is likely to be left on the bench again tonight, as well as Manchester United transfer target Jadon Sancho.
Yet whether England can win against their opponents with the duo left out remains to be seen, with Southgate under pressure to get it right.
Another person currently feeling the heat is Tottenham striker Harry Kane, who has failed to score at Euro 2020 so far.
He was hooked against Scotland last time out and some supporters have called on Southgate to drop the forward as a result of his flat showings at the competition.
But Southgate has given Kane a vote of confidence, saying: “I think the only thing that’s relevant is what I’ve said already this week.
“His importance to the team – he’s been our best player, our most influential player, our most important player for a long period of time.
“Of course there’s been moments where the likes of Raheem (Sterling) have probably had periods where he’s been critical for our success as well in terms the goalscoring, but Harry has consistently been our top goalscorer, his record since I’ve been in charge is phenomenal and he’s a hugely important figure for us.
“I think it’s the world of a big player. Throughout the time I’ve been England manager I must have managed these sorts of questions about Harry in three or four different periods of time, and inevitably he’s come through those periods and scored important goals for us and played exceptionally well. So it’s a bit of a repetitive cycle.”
He then added: “The big players have big focus, have a lot more attention, and their world is far more complicated than a lot of other players who can go under that radar of pressure and intensity.
“So I’ve got a huge understanding of how that is for Harry, a huge understanding of having played with big personalities, big players how their world is different and hopefully that helps me to manage him and get the best out of him, which over a long period of time I think we have done.”
England will better their Euro 2016 group stage points tally if they win tonight.
They finished second in the standings five years ago, with Wales taking top spot.
And whether England can fare better this year overall is something only time will tell.