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England vs Nigeria: Five talking points ahead of World Cup warm-up

Gareth Southgate has his 23 chosen ones but now comes the hard work and just who will make the cut with the opening game against Tunisia now just over a fortnight away

Friday 01 June 2018 10:49 BST
England World Cup squad stats

England are finalising their preparations before they head over to Russia for the World Cup.

Gareth Southgate has his 23 chosen ones but now comes the hard work and just who will make the cut with the opening game against Tunisia now just over a fortnight away.

He has plenty to ponder with more than one spot in his starting XI up for grabs and only one more friendly - against Costa Rica at Elland Road on Thursday - after the meeting at Wembley for those hopeful few to impress.

Let's take a look at the talking points ahead of Saturday's clash.

1. Who gets the gloves?

Gareth Southgate has yet to name his number one for the tournament but, with the vastly-experienced Joe Hart now jettisoned, time is running short to let his preferred candidate settle in the side.

Jordan Pickford and Jack Butland are thought to be in a head-to-head battle in front of the uncapped Nick Pope and whoever starts this game must be in pole position.

The pair have played just nine England matches between them - Butland responsible for seven of those - meaning now is no time to play coy over the final selection.

Will Butland do enough to get the gloves in Russia? (AFP/Getty Images)

2. How will Kane do with the armband?

Having rotated the armband throughout his tenure, Southgate has settled on Harry Kane for the tournament, edging out the claims of Liverpool's Jordan Henderson.

He has scored five times in his four previous outings as skipper, suggesting he is not weighed down by the role, but now would be the perfect time for a classic 'captain's performance'.

Kane will be the figurehead and focal point in Russia so it is vital he arrives in good form.

Kane will wear the armband at Wembley (AFP/Getty Images)

3. Who will take their chance?

The staggered ending to the season means workload and fatigue are likely to figure high in team selection. Liverpool pair Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold will play no part having been granted time off following the Champions League, while the FA Cup finalists from Manchester United and Chelsea may be treated with kid gloves after their own extra exertions.

That could mean opportunity knocks for other members of the squad who have found themselves further down the pecking order in previous get togethers.

4. How will Sterling respond?

In Raheem Sterling, England have a versatile, Premier League title-winning player coming off the back of his most prolific season in front of goal.

Everything should be pointing towards a defining summer with the national team. But the front-page treatment of the gun tattoo on his right leg has once again weighed the talented forward down with unconnected criticisms.

How much the row has affected him, or otherwise, may become apparent over 90 minutes.

Sterling heads to Wembley after a whirlwind week (AFP/Getty Images)

5. How much will it help preparations for Tunisia?

The age old policy of arranging friendlies who are geographically close to tournament opponents continues to be rolled out around the globe - see Panama lining up Northern Ireland as their Three Lions proxies earlier this week.

Nigeria, therefore, represent stand-ins for England's Group G African opponents Tunisia.

Expect to see some hints about Southgate's proposed tactics for that tournament curtain-raiser, in terms of tactics, system and style.

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