Harry Kane has time on his side to chase Wayne Rooney's England goalscoring record, says manager Gareth Southgate, who believes team success matters more to the Tottenham striker.

Kane is set to win his 50th cap for the Three Lions on Sunday when England visit Belgium in the Nations League.

The Spurs star already has 32 goals to his name for his country, putting him 21 behind Manchester United legend Rooney.

Still only 27, Kane has a lot of international football ahead of him, giving him a clear opportunity to overhaul Rooney and cement his place as England's greatest ever goalscorer.

"In terms of what's possible, I think the goalscoring record is the real interesting one," Southgate told a media conference.

"His strike rate for us is quite phenomenal really. He's got time on his side to crack on and chase Wayne's record, which would be a remarkable feat in itself.

"I know from his perspective, whilst personal achievement is something he's driven towards he's all about the team winning now, he's been to a World Cup, won the Golden Boot, in the end you want to win as a team.

"He's totally focused on that and the team having success. He would want in the next few years to be able to look back on the team having achieved, as well as some of those personal milestones."

Asked about his favourite moment from his time coaching Kane for England, Southgate pointed to his injury-time equaliser against Scotland at Hampden Park during qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, where he went on to win the Golden Boot with six goals as the Three Lions reached the semi-finals.

"The equaliser at Hampden sticks in my mind, that was a very important goal for us at a critical moment," said Southgate.

"Of course, his goals at the World Cup, to win the Golden Boot is an incredible personal achievement.

"There have been so many. It's a special moment for him, we've had three or four players get to that 50-cap milestone in the last year or so, for all of them it's a fantastic achievement."

Paul Pogba's struggles at Manchester United are impacting the star midfielder mentally and physically, according to France head coach Didier Deschamps.

Pogba has struggled for form and consistency this season amid links with a return to Serie A champions Juventus and blockbuster switch to LaLiga holders Real Madrid.

The France international, who previously flagged an exit last season, has found himself on the bench at Old Trafford this term – Pogba has started four of United's seven Premier League fixtures.

Through three Champions League matchdays, Pogba has only been named in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's starting line-up once.

Pogba has created two chances in the Premier League, while his passing accuracy stands at 79.9 per cent, while he has three chances created and two assists in the Champions League.

After struggling in the midweek friendly loss to Finland, Deschamps was asked about Pogba ahead of Saturday's Nations League showdown against Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal.

"He is not at his best, I knew that before," Deschamps told reporters. "This match against Finland was supposed to give him rhythm, so did Olivier Giroud.

"I had talked to them, they knew they would play for an hour at most. When you see the result, it's hard to remember the positive. Paul is not in his best period, I said that before Finland.

"Like all players who have a complicated situation at a club, they are impacted mentally, not just physically."

France sit second behind Portugal on goal difference after four games in League A Group 3.

Deschamps' France have won three matches and drawn once as they prepare for a Nations League double-header against Portugal and Sweden, who are winless.

Inter midfielder Marcelo Brozovic has tested positive for coronavirus while on international duty with Croatia. 

The Croatian Football Federation (HNS) announced Brozovic's COVID-19 result on Friday, along with a member of staff, and confirmed he is in self-isolation. 

Additional testing took place prior to Saturday's Nations League clash with Sweden after Croatia defender Domagoj Vida returned a positive test in Istanbul on Wednesday. 

"The test results showed two positive results, for the national team member Marcelo Brozovic and a staff member of the national team," a statement read. 

"Both were immediately isolated from the other members of the national team. Inter were informed of the positive test."

Vida was informed of his positive test during the midweek showdown with Turkey. 

The 31-year-old played in the first half before being withdrawn at half-time of the thrilling 3-3 draw. 

Croatia – runners-up at the 2018 World Cup – are third in League A Group 3, seven points adrift of Portugal and France. 

Brozovic has made seven Serie A appearances this season and 10 across all competitions for Inter, scoring once. 

Inter – winless in four matches in all competitions – are seventh in the league and five points behind leaders Milan ahead of the November 22 visit of Torino.

Toni Kroos can see the merits of a European Super League despite his criticism of potential additions to an already hectic schedule.

The idea of Europe's elite clubs forming their own division has long been mooted but came to the fore again after outgoing Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu claimed the Blaugrana had agreed to join such a league.

Kroos' Real Madrid would surely be involved, too, but the midfielder this week took aim at FIFA and UEFA due to the number of games top players are being asked to play - particularly during the coronavirus pandemic.

Seemingly referring to UEFA's Nations League and a possible super league, he said: "With the invention of all these new things, we seem to be just the puppets of FIFA and UEFA."

Further discussing the purported move with Marca, though, the Germany international highlighted some benefits.

"What I wanted to say is that, without a doubt, there are positive things about it," Kroos told the Spanish newspaper.

"We are going to see many matches of a very high level that we have only seen in the semi-finals of the Champions League. And we all like those games.

"It's going to make football very interesting for the fans of the teams and for those who don't have a specific [team]. We all like to watch football at the highest level."

However, he added: "You also have to take care of small teams. They are all very competitive. The super league is something else. I worry more about other things."

Wissam Ben Yedder has withdrawn from the France squad ahead of their final Nations League group games after testing positive for coronavirus.

After being informed of a positive COVID-19 result on Thursday, Monaco attacker Ben Yedder did not participate in training and began his period of isolation.

France have not called up a replacement ahead of their meeting with Portugal in Lisbon on Saturday and home game against Sweden on Tuesday.

Ben Yedder posted on Twitter: "Thank you for your messages… a lot of disappointment of course but I trust the team to do the job. Above all, protect yourself and pay attention to yourself."

Les Bleus are level on points with Portugal in Nations League Group A3 but sit second due to an inferior goal difference.

Didier Deschamps will be hoping his side can bounce back from a shock 2-0 loss to Finland on Wednesday when they take on European champions Portugal.

Ben Yedder played 57 minutes from the start in that match but failed to register a single shot on target or create a chance for a team-mate.

Monaco are due to face Ligue 1 leaders and defending champions Paris Saint-Germain at the Stade Louis II next Friday.

Only Kylian Mbappe (seven) and Boulaye Dia (eight) have scored more in Ligue 1 this season than Ben Yedder's six goals.

Ben Yedder has had a hand in 29 goals (24 scored, five assisted) since the start of the previous top-flight season; only Mbappe has been involved in more goals (25 scored, nine assisted).

The Football Association (FA) has asked the British government to grant Iceland a travel exemption to ensure England's Nations League fixture goes ahead at Wembley on November 18.

A new travel ban on non-British visitors arriving from Denmark has left Wednesday's match shrouded in uncertainty, as Iceland are set to face the Danes in Copenhagen three days earlier.

The measures have been put in place in an attempt to get the coronavirus infection rate under control.

While media reports indicated the FA has been exploring the possibility of playing the match in Albania or Germany instead, English authorities are still looking to reach an agreement with the government that would see the game played at Wembley as planned.

A statement published on Thursday has seen the FA issue a public plea to the country's lawmakers, outlining their agreements with Iceland and emphasising the fact elite footballers are being frequently tested for COVID-19.

The statement read: "We have asked government to consider allowing us to play our final Nations League match at Wembley, by giving travel exemption to the Icelandic team subject to strict medical protocols.

"The Icelandic team will have played Denmark in Copenhagen and therefore would be subject to a travel ban.

"While in Denmark they will have been under strict UEFA protocols in a sporting bubble and will be PCR tested before travelling to England. The PCR test picks up the Cluster 5 variant.

"We have agreed with the Icelandic team that they arrive on private charter to a private terminal and will only have access to their hotel and the stadium.

"We will also put in place additional testing over and above the multiple tests normally required for each participant and staff at the match.

"We are not asking for this support to help us have home advantage in this competitive international match, although of course that would be helpful. We are not asking for this support to avoid a huge cost from playing an England home match in Germany, although we can ill afford the financial penalty at this time.

"The priority must be health, which is why we are asking for this support. We believe it's in the better interests of the England team and support staff to play at Wembley Stadium rather than have international travel at this time - and then play the match under the same UEFA protocols against the same opposition, but in a different country.

"We understand the optics of an exception at a time when industries such as hauliers are not allowed to travel to Denmark. However, international footballers are amongst the most tested people on the planet and we will even conduct extra tests to go beyond the highest standard.

"We ask the government to follow the advice of their public health experts as to whether the match is safe to host in the UK and we believe an exception is justified and in the best interests of the England team."

Ahead of England's final two Nations League Group A2 fixtures, of which the Iceland match is second, England are level on seven points with Denmark, two adrift of leaders Belgium. Iceland have lost all their first four matches.

Fernando Santos gave little away regarding Portugal's attack for their Nations League clash with France.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Diogo Jota and Joao Felix came off the bench as the European champions thrashed Andorra 7-0 in a friendly on Wednesday.

Ronaldo and Joao Felix got on the scoresheet, while Paulinho marked his international debut with a brace as he started.

The reigning Nations League champions, Portugal host France in Lisbon on Saturday, the teams both on 10 points in Group 3 of League A with two matches left to play.

But, asked about Ronaldo, Jota, Joao Felix and Paulinho facing France, Santos said one would miss out.

"Only three of the four play," the Portugal head coach said.

"But I will not reveal which ones."

Pedro Neto and Renato Sanches were also on the scoresheet against Andorra, to go with an Emili Garcia own goal, as Portugal dominated.

Santos was satisfied with his side's performance as they extended their unbeaten run to eight games.

"It was an interesting game and within what we expected," he said.

"Obviously Andorra is a very defensive team. It was necessary to have a lot of patience to circulate the ball and to find spaces. The team did well in that respect.

"It was a successful game."

Germany head coach Joachim Low praised his fringe players after a changed side delivered a 1-0 friendly win against the Czech Republic, but warned those involved not to expect a regular place for Die Mannschaft.

Gian-Luca Waldschmidt's first-half goal proved enough to earn Germany only their second victory in six matches in 2020, and the assist came from PSV Eindhoven defender Philipp Max, who was making his debut.

Both Max and fellow debutant Ridle Baku gave strong showings, as did Florian Neuhaus in midfield and Robin Koch at centre-back, but Low indicated that his more established stars would return to the fold for Germany's Nations League meetings with Ukraine and Spain.

"We won't change a lot in those games," Low told RTL.

"This line-up will probably no longer play together. Still, you have to say that the guys got involved and played an intense game.

"We had good actions in the first half. In the second half we failed to score but were able to defend the 1-0 lead, so we can be satisfied."

Max, a former Bayern Munich youth player who represented Schalke, Karlsruher and Augsburg before joining PSV, caused the Czech Republic problems all evening in Leipzig, not least when he instinctively pounced on a parried shot to tee up Waldschmidt's goal.

He said: "I'm really proud to have made my international debut today. It is also a really special day for my family and friends."

Germany did show signs of the defensive frailties that saw them concede seven goals in their previous three outings, but Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan, who captained Low's men at Red Bull Arena, was quick to defend his international colleagues.

"Mistakes are common," said Gundogan. "You have to forgive young players, especially those making their debuts.

"We can be satisfied with the win."

Michy Batshuayi scored twice for Belgium as the number one FIFA-ranked team in the world laboured to a 2-1 win over Switzerland in a low-key international friendly.

Admir Mehmedi gave the Swiss the lead early on at the Den Dreef Stadion in Leuven with a crisp low finish past Belgium goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.

Batshuayi equalised for Belgium early in the second half with an angled finish after an intelligent pass from Youri Tielemans.

The 27-year-old striker then took his tally to 21 goals for Belgium, scoring his second of the game with a shot on the turn from close range to seal victory with 20 minutes left.

England manager Gareth Southgate was concerned by the non-contact element of Joe Gomez's knee injury, which was confirmed as the player left the camp.

Following reports of an issue in training, the Football Association (FA) and Liverpool each announced Gomez had withdrawn from the England squad for the friendly with Republic of Ireland and the Nations League matches against Belgium and Iceland.

Gomez will undergo further diagnosis with Liverpool's medical team, the Premier League champions suffering another blow to a defence already hit by injuries to Virgil van Dijk and Trent Alexander-Arnold.

It is further pressure on a back line that has conceded 16 goals in eight Premier League games this season, an average of two per match, having shipped 0.87 per game in their triumphant 2019-20 campaign.

Speaking at a media conference ahead of the Ireland match, Southgate said of Gomez's injury: "I can't tell you how serious it is because he’s yet to have scans.

"What was upsetting was to see he was in a fair bit of pain. There was nobody around him when the injury happened and I didn't like that element of it. 

"We've got to wait and see what the scans show. We're all hopeful for him that it's not what it looks like it might be."

It has been a tumultuous week for the FA, which has seen chairman Greg Clarke resign from his post.

Clarke stepped down after receiving heavy criticism for his use of the term "coloured footballers" in a meeting with a parliamentary committee on Tuesday.

Asked to weigh in on Clarke's exit, Southgate replied: "The terminology he used in a number of areas was not acceptable.

"It doesn't reflect the view of the FA and doesn't reflect what we as a team stand for. I don't think he had any alternative but to take the decision he did and resign."

He added: "We had spoken positively about [diversity] the day before, so I felt it was necessary to explain that what happened yesterday wasn't acceptable and didn't represent what we stand for as a team.  

"[The FA] is as diverse an organisation as I've ever been a part of, so internally there was a lot of upset about what had been said and I think Greg recognised that, alongside the other challenges what he said yesterday brought about, the internal upset was massive.

"There have been messages in society all summer about educating ourselves and I think a lot of us have done that over the last six months in particular.

"As an organisation, we have to make change. We can't keep standing in front of the cameras talking about change."

Ajax midfielder Ryan Gravenberch has been handed a first call-up to the Netherlands squad.

Gravenberch was promoted from the Under-21 squad after Tonny Vilhena was ruled out of the upcoming internationals due to a positive coronavirus test.

The 18-year-old will not be in the squad for Wednesday's friendly against Spain but could earn his maiden cap in the Nations League against Bosnia-Herzegovina or Poland.

Head coach Ronald de Boer will consequently have 24 players available to him for the crunch Nations League fixtures on Sunday and Wednesday.

Gravenberch has featured six times in the Eredivisie this season and supplied two assists. He is also the second-youngest player yet to miss a minute of action in the 2020-21 Champions League, after Illia Zabarnyi of Dynamo Kiev.

Only Dusan Tadic (71) and Daley Blind (68) have completed more passes in the opposition half for Ajax in their Group D campaign than Gravenberch (62), who was won more duels in the competition that any of his team-mates (21).

Toni Kroos has accused FIFA and UEFA of treating footballers like "puppets" by creating new tournaments at club and international level.

Kroos will this week represent Germany in the Nations League, a competition formed two years ago with the aim of replacing friendly matches.

The Club World Cup has also recently been expanded and there is talk of a new European Super League being formed in the coming years.

However, Real Madrid midfielder Kroos is completely against the idea of cramming more fixtures into an already packed schedule.

"With the invention of all these new things we seem to be just the puppets of FIFA and UEFA," he said.

"These competitions are created to suck everything out of every single player physically and to suck out as much money as possible.

"When certain things work well it is a good idea to leave them that way."

Speaking on his Einfach mal Luppen podcast, which he hosts together with brother Felix, Kroos also took aim at fellow professionals who choreograph their goal celebrations.

Referencing celebrations by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has previously sported a Spiderman mask, and Antoine Griezmann, who simulates dance moves from video game Fortnite, Kroos said: "I find it very silly.

"Even worse is if there are any objects hidden in their socks. Aubameyang once celebrated and took out a mask. That's where it ends with me.

"I don't think that's a good role model, either. What nonsense."

Jack Grealish may still be some way off living up to the outlandish Paul Gascoigne comparisons unloaded on him recently, but there can be little doubt of the Aston Villa star's supreme abilities.

Few players in elite football possess the grace and effortlessness on the ball of Grealish, who has come to establish himself as one of the Premier League's finest technicians.

But there is even more to his game than just simply looking graceful – his influence on high-flying Villa has been phenomenal.

It seems remarkable that his first call-up was as recent as August – even then, he was not included in the initial list, only getting his break after the withdrawals of Marcus Rashford and Harry Winks.

It was not until October that Grealish was handed his full debut, impressing in the 3-0 friendly win over Wales as he offered the kind of off-the-cuff creativity that has so often been missing from England's largely monotonous style of play under Gareth Southgate.

Yet Southgate's trepidation seemed to remain – Grealish did not play a single minute in their next two games against Belgium and Denmark.

But the man who Rio Ferdinand believes is the Premier League's most influential player respective to their own team is showing the kind of form that would make him virtually undroppable for any other manager.


The problem with Grealish – and one must assume this is at least partly why Southgate has been holding him back – is that his defensive output is pretty poor, and he is particularly ineffective with regards to winning possession back as a consequence of pressing.

But sometimes you have to accept a player's deficiencies because of his other abilities. Similarly, Grealish is not in the Villa team to win possession back, so why should we judge him too harshly on this?

The fact is, Villa have been one of the revelations of the season in the Premier League, winning five of their seven matches, and Grealish has been central to so much of what they do.

First of all, his haul of four goals and five assists from seven games is truly excellent, but we can delve much deeper to understand the extent of his influence.

Grealish has been involved in 10 goal-ending sequences this term, second to only Harry Kane and Son Heung-min (both 13), while he also ranks third in the division for involvement in sequences that end with a shot (51).

This shows his importance to Villa going forward, with Grealish routinely involved in their most rewarding moves.

Panache and productivity

Still require evidence of Grealish's impact? There is plenty more to come, and this gives us the chance to highlight his ability on the ball but also how he is using that to Villa's advantage.

Ball carriers or players who like to dribble can be among the most frustrating on a pitch – you can become accustomed to expecting them to succeed every time, but in reality holding on to the ball, particularly when under pressure, is one of the toughest parts of the game.

It is normal to see centre-backs and full-backs rank well with regards to ball carries as they are often the players with the most space when in possession, yet Grealish bucks the trend.

The Villa virtuoso has performed 149 carries this season, making him the only non-defender in the top five, an impressive feat as it show he carries the ball frequently despite operating in – theoretically – the most congested area of the pitch.

His ball carries equate to 1,980 metres, second only to Adam Webster (2,032m) despite 48 fewer attempts than the Brighton and Hove Albion defender. However, Grealish comes out at the top with respect to progressive carry distance (1,269m) and 15 of them have included a take-on, a tally bettered by just five players.

But most importantly, Grealish is actually making an impact at the end of them as well. A league-high nine of his carries have resulted in a key pass, another nine have led to a shot (ranked third) and three of those produced a goal (ranked second).

The form and focus Grealish has been showing in the Premier League – in which he is the fourth most creative player this term with 19 key passes – should ensure he is one of the first picks in this England side, a team that is too often overly cautious.

But it remains to be seen if he has done enough to eradicate Southgate's caution.

A likely start in Thursday's friendly with the Republic of Ireland, whom Grealish represented at youth level, might be a relatively meaningless contest on the face of it, but for Villa's captain it could provide the opportunity to induce a long-awaited epiphany in the mind of Southgate.

Several stars will hope to make their first senior appearances for their countries this week as international football returns.

While most European nations will prepare for their final Nations League matches with friendlies in the coming days, South America is straight back into competitive action with the latest rounds of 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

A host of players are celebrating call-ups and will be doing their utmost to win their first caps, particularly with less than a year to run until the delayed Euro 2020 and Copa America finals.

We've picked out six of the biggest names hoping to make an impact on their debut this week...



Borussia Dortmund's Jude Bellingham was called up by England boss Gareth Southgate after injuries to Trent Alexander-Arnold and James Ward-Prowse.

The 17-year-old, who will be England's third-youngest debutant if he plays this month, has enjoyed a strong start to life in the Bundesliga and beat the likes of James Maddison and Ross Barkley to a spot in the Three Lions squad.

Key Fact: Bellingham is averaging 68 successful passes per 90 minutes in the Bundesliga this season for Dortmund, the highest figure for any teenage midfielder in Europe's top five divisions.


Didier Deschamps said Ruben Aguilar could also make his debut this week, but it is Borussia Monchengladbach's Marcus Thuram who is capturing much of the focus on the France squad.

The son of 1998 World Cup winner Lilian Thuram, who holds the record for France caps on 142, striker Marcus Thuram scored both goals in Gladbach's 2-2 Champions League draw with Real Madrid.

Key Fact: Thuram has been directly involved in 20 league goals since the start of last season (11 goals and nine assists) – the only Gladbach player with more in this period is fellow Frenchman Alassane Plea.


Along with Philipp Max of PSV and Wolfsburg's Ridle Baku, Augsburg's Felix Uduokhai is a new face in Joachim Low's Germany squad, having been a runner-up at the European Under-21 Championship last year.

The 23-year-old defender joined Heiko Herrlich's side permanently after impressing on loan from Wolfsburg last season and has performed well in a mixed start to the season for the Bavarians.

Key Fact: Uduokhai has already amassed 43 clearances in Augsburg's opening seven Bundesliga matches this season, the most of any player in the division.


Roberto Mancini named a handful of uncapped players in his typically expansive Italy squad, but Pietro Pellegri's debut has been eagerly awaited for some time.

Having missed out through injury after his previous call-up two years ago, the 19-year-old forward - who cost Monaco €25million in January 2018 - is getting his career back on track after a raft of fitness problems.

Key Fact: Pietro Pellegri is the third-youngest player to score a Serie A goal, doing so aged 16 years and 72 days for Genoa against Roma in May 2017. He is also the youngest player to score a Serie A brace at 16 years and 184 days old for Genoa against Lazio in September 2017.


At 25, it feels as though Marcos Llorente's Spain debut has been a long time coming, but his performances in a more attacking role for Atletico Madrid this season have truly caught the eye.

The former Real Madrid man, who famously scored twice at Anfield in extra time to knock Liverpool out of last season's Champions League, has helped Atleti to an unbeaten first seven games in LaLiga in 2020-21.

Key Fact: Llorente has been directly involved in 11 goals in his past 21 appearances in LaLiga (six goals and five assists) – prior to this run, he had a total of zero goals and two assists in 69 appearances in the competition.


Diego Carlos played a key role to help Sevilla win the Europa League in his first season in Spain. Indeed, having conceded penalties in the quarter-final, semi-final and final, it was his overhead kick that Romelu Lukaku turned into his own net to hand Julen Lopetegui's side the trophy.

The 27-year-old centre-back, who joined after three years with Nantes, is now bidding to become a mainstay in Tite's plans as the Copa America and 2022 World Cup loom on the horizon.

Key Fact: Diego Carlos has started seven sequences of play that have ended with Sevilla attempting a shot in LaLiga this season, the joint-most of any centre-back in the division alongside Gerard Pique.

While 2020 has been testing for most, Jude Bellingham will surely look back on it as the year that changed his life.

Having sealed a big-money move to Borussia Dortmund from Birmingham City in pre-season, he subsequently got himself straight into the first-team picture at Signal Iduna Park and has now been rewarded with a first call-up to England's senior side at the age of 17.

It caps a remarkable rise for the young midfielder, who was representing England's Under-16s as recently as April 2019.

His promotion from the Under-21s comes as a result of James Ward-Prowse pulling out of the squad due to injury, with Bellingham set to become the third-youngest England debutant of all-time behind Wayne Rooney and Theo Walcott if he features in any of the Three Lions' three games this month.

But, while Bellingham's momentous call-up is a cause for celebration, it has posed questions for manager Gareth Southgate – namely, why not the more experienced options?

Too soon for Bellingham?

There is no doubt Bellingham has started brightly at Dortmund – after all, he has attempted more passes (292) than any other under-18 player in Europe's top five leagues this term, while his dribble success rate (58.3 per cent) is third among players in the same age bracket to have tried 10 or more.

Similarly, no other under-18 player can match his 12 tackles. He has fitted in well with Lucien Favre's high-pressing, attacking style and his adaptation is all the more impressive given his age.

But at the same time, it has been pointed out by Southgate's critics that Bellingham has made just four top-flight starts in his career – can a player truly show the required level of consistency across such a small sample size?

The counter to that argument is, this is by no means a new phenomenon. Raheem Sterling, Harry Winks and Dele Alli are just three of the players to have received senior England call-ups before starting five matches in one of Europe's top five leagues.

Nevertheless, Bellingham's call-up does – on the face of it – seem somewhat premature given there are comparable players of greater experience who have either been excelling recently or have impressed for England in the past.

Maddison and Barkley in the lurch

James Maddison and Ross Barkley appear to be seen as the two most hard done by in being ignored by Southgate.

Bellingham is certainly a more like-for-like replacement of Ward-Prowse than the aforementioned pair, but England have often looked short of creative ideas in the past few months – perhaps Barkley or Maddison would have been welcome additions in that sense.

After all, Barkley is averaging 2.9 chances created per 90 minutes for Aston Villa this term, compared to Bellingham's 1.6, a decrease one might expect for a player who usually occupies a pivot role.

Similarly, Barkley has been involved in three goals (two scored, one set up) to Bellingham's solitary assist, but the choice likely comes down to Southgate's trust – or lack thereof – in the Villa star or Maddison to effectively play a deep role.

While Maddison's distribution accuracy of 90 per cent may be an improvement on Bellingham's 86 per cent, the youngster is averaging many more passes per game (79 to 46). Likewise with Barkley, who plays 40 passes every 90 minutes with an accuracy of 83 per cent.

It also seems likely that Maddison is not helped by the fact he has made just two Premier League starts this term, though he was bright against Wolves at the weekend.

It is the sequence data that arguably gives us the greatest insight to Southgate's thinking with regards to this trio, however.

Southgate has a penchant for deep-lying midfielders who are tidy in possession, and Bellingham has been involved in 57 open-play passing sequences per 90 minutes this term, far more than Barkley (39) and Maddison (41).

He also starts such sequences (12 per game) more often than his rivals (11 for Barkley, 7 for Maddison), while 1.4 per 90 minutes end in a shot. This is also greater than the output of Barkley (0.9) and Maddison (0.7).

So, while Barkley and Maddison might offer more in the final third, Bellingham's role as a midfield pivot for Dortmund this term has seen him shine in terms of passing and recycling possession.

England fans may not like Southgate's apparent reliance on deep midfielders, but the fact he has chosen Bellingham to fill in for Ward-Prowse does make sense stylistically.

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