England manager Gareth Southgate would not confirm whether he would be selecting any Manchester City players for the game as England face Malta on Friday.
Addressing the media on Friday, Southgate said “The first thing is they are not on summer holiday. They are all available, so everybody is fit. We have obviously got a lot of considerations, particularly the boys that arrived later.
“It is always complicated, the decisions you have to make. This is never a straightforward week when you are talking about international football but the team have trained really well, the players that have been with us all week, especially, the focus has been excellent and we are looking forward to the game.”
“We played so well in March that we have to make the most of those results by performing well and winning this summer. The players understand the challenge of games like these. We have got to set standards for ourselves no matter who the opponent is.”
Jack Grealish, Phil Foden, Kyle Walker, John Stones and Kalvin Phillips only linked up with the squad on Tuesday after Manchester City completed the treble by lifting the UEFA Champions League trophy in Istanbul.
“Huge emotion, celebration, need to get back into training, back in with the group, so we’re just going to have to take that bit by bit and see how they all are. They are all available but I have got to decide whether that’s a good decision. We have got strength in depth in a lot of those positions as well.”
Referring to the prolonged celebrations by some of the players, Southgate added “I’m always monitoring everything the players do wherever they are, at whatever stage of the season. “We’re used to dealing with this. It was probably even more complicated for us when Tottenham played Liverpool because we were then into the semi-final of the Nations League about three days later. We have had several difficult situations with that, but we know how to deal with it. We are used to dealing with it, we know our players inside out and our focus is on the team now.”
“I’ve said to the players, I now have to push them. They might not want to be pushed at this stage, that’s also individually we’ll find out where they are as we go through the week. But that is my job. I have to push them to get the results we need and the responsibility lies with them.”
Jude Bellingham, who has just joined Real Madrid, is ruled out due to an injury but still joined the squad at St. George’s Park. Lewis Dunk withdrew from the squad due to injury and was replaced by Levi Colwill of Chelsea. Southgate said that although Colwill is young, he was impressed by his mentality and his intention is to keep him in squad until the team returns to Manchester and then allow him to re-join the Under-21 squad.
Southgate said he watched all of Malta’s recent games while his assistant Steve Holland was present at the Stade de Luxembourg for Malta’s friendly match against Luxembourg on Friday.
The England manager said Malta was an organised team and whole it was difficult to score goals against them, they create chances.
Newcastle United’s Kieran Trippier added that they analysed Malta’s last few games and that they have maximum respect for opponents. He said that for the players, it was a long season but there was nothing more proud other than to represent England. Trippier said he knew that it would be a challenge but they were prepared for it.
The Three Lions claimed maximum points from the first two matches, defeating Italy 2-1 in Naples and Ukraine 2-1 at Wembley. They won five out of the last eight games, playing, losing only to France in the World Cup quarter-finals.
England has a perfect record against Malta, winning the five previous encounters. England won 1-0 at The Stadium in a EURO qualifier February 1971. Later that year, England won 5-0 at Wembley. In June 2000, the two teams met in a friendly match with England winning 2-1. In October 2016, England registered a 2-0 win at Wembley Stadium in a World Cup qualifier while in September 2017, two late goals enabled England to register a 4-0 win.
The players at Southgate’s disposal are:
Goalkeepers: Sam Johnstone (Crystal Palace), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)
Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Levi Colwill (Chelsea), Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle United), Kyle Walker (Manchester City)
Midfielders: Eberechi Eze (Crystal Palace), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City), Declan Rice (West Ham United)
Forwards: Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), James Maddison (Leicester City), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Callum Wilson (Newcastle United)