Euro 2020 - Good news for Grealish? 3 England players set to benefit from switch to 26-man squads
This summer’s European Championship will feature 26-man squads after UEFA confirmed the increase on Tuesday. England manager Gareth Southgate had suggested he already knew which 23 players would make the cut, but there are now three more places available as he looks to compile his final list in the coming weeks.
Jack Grealish of England looks on during the UEFA Nations League group stage match between Belgium and England at King Power at Den Dreef Stadion on November 15, 2020 in Heverlee, Belgium.
UEFA have confirmed an increase to 26-man squads for this summer's European Championship – so what does that mean for England?
The rule change is being brought in to mitigate the risks of teams facing a shortage of available players for certain matches due to possible Covid-19 cases and subsequent quarantine measures.
The matchday squads will remain at 23 players, in accordance with Law 3 of the IFAB Laws of the Game permitting a maximum of 12 substitutes to be named for A-national team matches, including three goalkeepers.
Back in March, England manager Gareth Southgate named a 26-man squad for the World Cup qualifiers against San Marino, Albania and Poland, featuring three goalkeepers, 10 defenders, seven midfielders and seven forwards.
Southgate would presumably have cut one player from each outfield position to make his 23-man squad, but he is no longer faced with that dilemma. Instead, he must decide which players warrant keeping their place from March, and who has forced their way back into contention.
Southgate's 26-man squad in March
Goalkeepers: Dean Henderson (Manchester United), Sam Johnstone (West Bromwich Albion), Nick Pope (Burnley)
Defenders: Ben Chilwell (Chelsea), Conor Coady (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur), Reece James (Chelsea), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Atletico Madrid), Kyle Walker (Manchester City)
Midfielders: Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jesse Lingard (West Ham United, loan from Manchester United), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Kalvin Phillips (Leeds United), Declan Rice (West Ham United), James Ward-Prowse (Southampton)
Forwards: Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton), Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Ollie Watkins (Aston Villa)
The England players who could benefit
After impressing in the autumn internationals, Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish had looked a shoo-in for the squad until recent injury problems stalled his impressive season.
Grealish has not played since mid-February due to a shin injury, and time is now running out for the 25-year-old to get game-time before Euro 2020 starts on June 11.
Jack Grealish of England reacts during the UEFA Nations League group stage match between Belgium and England
Image credit: Getty Images
If Grealish is able to prove his fitness in the final month of the Premier League then Southgate may well believe he is worth selecting for the Euros – and this squad expansion could help the player’s cause as he looks set to challenge Bukayo Saka for a place in the squad.
Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling, Jadon Sancho and Phil Foden will be the other wide options hoping they have safely secured their place already, fitness permitting.
Jordan Henderson’s fitness could have a major say on the central midfielders who make the final cut, but the expansion could allow Southgate to name one more player in this position.
Jude Bellingham of England during the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar qualifying match between England and San Marino
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That could benefit Borussia Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham, likewise Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse. The pair are arguably on the fringe of Southgate’s thoughts for the upcoming tournament, but now they may both make the squad.
Bellingham dazzled in recent Champions League outings for Dortmund, while Ward-Prowse’s set-piece prowess makes him an attractive option for England. If Henderson is fit and Southgate chooses just one, however, and it could well be Bellingham who gets the nod.
England’s strongest position is at right-back, as Trent Alexander-Arnold learned in March when he was left out of the squad.
Kieran Trippier, Kyle Walker and Reece James were all picked ahead of the Liverpool defender, and given the squad is remaining at 26, it looks as though three of these four players will make the final Euros squad.
Kieran Trippier and Trent Alexander-Arnold of England look on during the UEFA Nations League group stage match between Denmark and England at Parken Stadium on September 08, 2020 in Copenhagen, Denmark.
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That saves Southgate the tricky predicament of picking just two – a potential conundrum had the squad been 23 – but it still leaves the England manager a headache, with one player set for a disappointing phone call.
Alexander-Arnold will hope his recent form earns him some positive news when Southgate is making his way through his contacts.
Honourable mentions: The announcement also strengthens the prospects of both TyroneMings and ConorCoady making the squad. Southgate may well have had to decide between the two centre-backs, who are set for bench roles with Harry Maguire and John Stones expected to start.
JesseLingard will also be hoping his West Ham form sees him retain his place in the England squad from March. Southgate had admitted the Manchester United loanee benefited from injuries when called up last time around, but with nine goals in 12 league games for West Ham the 28-year-old is doing his best to prove he is worthy of a spot in the Euros squad on merit.