Having breezed through their European Championship qualifying group with a perfect ten out of ten wins; England face a much tougher test in the form of defending champions Spain when the two nations clash in Alicante on Friday night.
It has been an impressive 17 months since Roy Hodgson’s side last tasted defeat; harking back to the Three Lions’ woeful 2014 World Cup campaign in Brazil, but tomorrow night’s international friendly inside the Estadio Jose Rico Perez Stadium will test England’s durability to the very limit.
Spain, who have won the past two European Championships, only lost once during their respective qualifying campaign against Slovakia and are similarly looking to silence their doubters after last year’s miserable World Cup campaign at next year’s finals in France.
With both countries determined to demonstrate their pre-tournament credentials to the rest of the continent; here is how we would like England to line-up against Vicente del Bosque’s men tomorrow night.
Although national team coach Hodgson has already revealed England’s all-time leading goalscorer Wayne Rooney will start from the bench, he makes our starting eleven alongside an in-form Premier League striker…
Which England XI would you pick?
Admittedly the inspiring form of Stoke City’s Jack Butland ran the regular England number one close, but we have stuck with Joe Hart between the sticks. You can’t argue with statistics; Hart has helped Manchester City stay afloat at the top of the table with seven clean sheets, more than any other shot stopper in the Premier League this season.
The England right-back has endured a comfortable start to life at Liverpool following his summer switch from Southampton, playing every minute of Premier League football for the Reds this campaign. All of Clyne’s eight international caps have come within the Three Lions’ last ten games, signalling his instrumental role for both England and for new Reds boss Jurgen Klopp’s rebuilding process back at Anfield this term.
Arguably the Premier League’s most improved player this season; Smalling has been at rock at the heart of Manchester United’s defence when the Red Devils are struggling to convert chances up front. To highlight his importance to Louis van Gaal’s side; the former Maidstone United centre-half has featured in every single game in all competitions for United this season. He is fast becoming known as ‘Mr Reliable’.
Perhaps the future centre-halve pairing; Chris Smalling and John Stones side-by-side. Tipped to captain England in the future; the 21-year-old has put in some fine performances for Everton since his speculated switch to Chelsea earlier this summer, forming a formidable partnership with fellow Three Lions teammate Phil Jagielka for the Toffees.
The Southampton full-back gets the nod ahead of Arsenal’s Kieron Gibbs given the 26-year-old’s impressive recovery from a knee operation over the summer. His return from injury is a huge boost for both the Saints and England; as with Leighton Baines’ reign at left-back fading and Luke Shaw ruled out for the season, Bertrand has the opportunity to make this spot his own ahead of the UEFA European Championships next summer.
The Premier League’s in-form man. The 19-year-old, who only made his England bow last month against Estonia, should earn his first international start against Spain given his incredible adaptation to the English top-flight this season. The former Milton Keynes Dons starlet has earned rave reviews so far at Spurs, scoring twice in 11 league games to help Tottenham remain unbeaten since the opening day of the 2015-16 campaign.
With national team coach Roy Hodgson set to experiment with his team selection slightly against the reigning European Championships on Friday, we’ve included Manchester United’s Michael Carrick in there for good measure and vital international experience. Often underrated; his influence in the centre of the park to get the ball down and find a man is valuable, for both club and country.
Close call between the Liverpool midfielder and Everton’s Ross Barkley; but Lallana should start on his 17th international appearance given his comfortable adaptation to the right-flank. Despite still being unable to showcase his full potential at Anfield since arriving from Southampton; the 27-year-old’s work rate may prove crucial in stopping Spain overturning England in midfield, especially with Reds teammate James Milner ruled out of the forthcoming friendlies.
Reaping the benefits from his colossal £49m summer move from Liverpool to Manchester City; England fans are finally starting to see Sterling add goals to his game having netted six times in 16 appearances in all competitions so far this season for the Citizens. Top of the table and sitting pretty; the 20-year-old will need to improve his international goalscoring tally, just two goals in 18 games, if he is to fulfil his dream of reaching 100 caps.
The Tottenham hotshot has rediscovered his goalscoring touch within the past month, netting six times in his last four Premier League appearances to spearhead Spurs’ superb 11-game unbeaten run. Plus; with three goals from his opening three England caps, Kane is a certain starter against Spain.
Jamie Vardy’s injury doubt helped make up our mind to include the Manchester United captain, despite Roy Hodgson opting against picking the country’s all-time leading goalscorer for Friday’s friendly. Although he has only found the back of the net once in his last six appearances in all competitions, striking up a frontline partnership with Kane could be imperative to England’s chances at next summer’s Euros.