REACTION: Gareth Southgate selects his England U21 squad but is it good enough?

Gareth Southgate has announced his 27-man preliminary England squad for the UEFA Under 21 European Championships this summer and there were some high profile names omitted from the squad.

Raheem Sterling, Ross Barkley, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere are all absent from the squad, despite being available for selection. It will be interesting to see how many of them play for the senior team next month when they face Republic of Ireland and Slovenia, as Southgate will not have them available at this summer’s tournament.

Of the selected 27 players, they accumulate just 268 Premier League appearances this season, and average just 10 league appearances each, with 11 members of the squad playing outside the Premier League this season.

Player Parent Club Premier League appearances 2014-15
Marcus Bettinelli Fulham 0
Jonothan Bond Watford 0
Jack Butland Stoke City 3
Calum Chambers Arsenal 23
Eric Dier Tottenham 27
Luke Garbutt Everton 4
Ben Gibson Middlesborough 0
Carl Jenkinson Arsenal 31
Michael Keane Burnley 20
Liam Moore Leicester City 11
John Stones Everton 22
Matt Targett Southampton 6
Tom Carroll Tottenham 13
Nathaniel Chalobah Chelsea 0
Will Hughes Derby County 0
Jake Forster-Caskey Brighton and Hove Albion 0
Jesse Lingard Manchester United 1
Ruben Loftus-Cheek Chelsea 3
Alex Pritchard Tottenham 0
Nathan Redmond Norwich City 0
James Ward-Prowse Southampton 24
Benik Afobe Wolves 0
Patrick Bamford Chelsea 0
Saido Berahino West Brom 37
Harry Kane Tottenham 33
Danny Ings Burnley 34
Cauley Woodrow Fulham 0

In all honesty it is a weaker squad than anticipated, especially when you consider the midfielders selected have only made 41 league appearances between the nine of them, averaging under 5 appearances each. A shocking statistic for a squad that are deemed as favourites as Gareth Southgate has suggested.

When speaking about his selections, Southgate had this to say: “The group dynamic is important and we’ve taken the learnings on board and this group of players have opportunity to set the standard.

“We want to go and play in a certain style this summer and, yes, we want to win but it can’t be the sole focus. Development is key.”

But once again, should England fail to win the championship, questions will be asked about how strong the squad that was taken and should senior players have been selected?

However, Southgate has said: “We feel we should reward this group for what they’ve achieved up until now.

“We’ve worked closely with Roy (Hodgson) about what’s right thing for each player and the experience.” So if the worst was to happen and England crash out of the tournament again, like they did in Israel two years ago, Hodgson will be as much to blame as anyone.

The big debate is that if players are fit and available to be selected for the Under 21s then they probably should be.

Do you think the current England Under 21 squad is strong enough to win the European Championships, or should a stronger team have been selected?


Podcast: Vancouver Whitecaps, USMNT and England internationals

In this week’s MLSGB Podcast, Zack Walford talks to Jamie Ives and Louis East about the international break and how the US Men’s National Team fared as well as England in their games. While we also speak about the Vancouver Whitecaps after their impressive start to the 2015 MLS season.

Make sure you get in touch on Twitter: @MLSGB_ or comment below about any thoughts you have relating to the podcast.

Loyal Manchester United star rules out Serie A switch

Manchester United and England captain, Wayne Rooney has ruled out moving away from the Premier League to play in Serie A.

Speaking at a press conference ahead of tonights England friendly against Italy, Rooney outlined his love for Serie A but admits he doesn’t see himself plying his trade there as he loves the Premier League.

“I’ve never thought of playing in Italy,” Rooney said.

“Growing up I watched Italian football. They had some great teams like Juventus and AC Milan and I loved to watch Fiorentina because I loved watching Batistuta.”

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The only likely destination Rooney would choose in Italy would be to ‘The Old Lady’, Juventus, who are the most prominent Italian side to currently feature in the Champions League. But the 29-year-old forward doesn’t think a move is likely.

“But to be honest I don’t think I will be playing in Italy.”

Rooney has also been linked with moves away from United to other Premier League clubs, with the likes of Chelsea having previously been interested, but for now it looks like he will continue to turn out for the Red Devils.

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He is thriving under Louis Van Gaal and seems to love playing for the Red Devils.

As well as closing in on Bobby Charlton’s all-time leading goalscoring record, Rooney is pressing on to try and reach Alan Shearer’s Premier League goalscoring record of 260 goals. Rooney has 184 goals in 400 league appearances.

Would Wayne Rooney suit Serie A? Will he stay with Manchester United for the rest of his career?

Chelsea’s £50m summer target thinks he is best suited as a striker

Everton midfielder Ross Barkley, who is being linked with a £50 million move to Chelsea, feels he can offer more by playing as a striker.

“I’m a striker,” the 21 year old told the Premier League’s official site. “I feel I can have my greatest impact there because I’m free to roam around the pitch, take players on, have shots and create chances.”

Barkley, who has caught the eye of the best clubs in the Premier League, has had a dip in form this season, but isn’t concerned.

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“From my point of view I haven’t done as well as I know I can, but things like this happen.

“You have to go through bad days to get to the great days you have in your career. Everything’s a learning curve.”

Barkley’s dip in form has coincided with Everton’s poor season but the England international insists the club will bounce back and he isn’t fazed by pressure.

“We haven’t been going through the best period at the moment but we’re going to come through this and be really good at the end of it. I don’t feel pressure. I believe in myself and I know what I can do.

“It’s not me feeling pressure, it’s just me putting pressure on myself if I don’t do my best, and I know I can do better.”

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Barkley has only scored twice in the Premier League, registering just 21 shots, whereas last campaign saw him net six times with 50 efforts on goal.

Whether or not Barkley is right about his playing position is for current boss Roberto Martinez to decide, but with reports linking him with the likes of Chelsea this summer, he will want to put in his best performances until the end of the season to remind everyone what he is capable of.

Barkley is in line for an appearance in England’s friendly against Italy tonight and will be keen to impress, but it is doubtful that manager Roy Hodgson will elect to play him as a striker.

Is Ross Barkley best suited to playing upfront? Or is he best as a midfielder?

Wayne Rooney says England are to be feared

Wayne Rooney has stated England have what it takes to be feared as a footballing nation as they maintain their 100 per cent record in Euro 2016 qualifiers.

Speaking to Sky Sports ahead of England’s friendly with Italy on Tuesday night, the Manchester United forward feels the players have what it takes to be feared.

“The players are so quick and when we lose the ball we want to be aggressive and win it back quickly.

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“I am sure you have heard the manager talk about those little ‘furies’ – that when we lose the ball we have to win it back as quickly as possible.

“With the players we have got, we have to play like that.”

England are unbeaten in their last eight games, winning the last seven, and have rapidly improved since their hugely disappointing World Cup performance in 2014.

And Rooney has highlighted the importance of teams not wanting to face England.

“You don’t want to go into games and teams enjoy playing against you.

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“You want teams to look at England and think, ‘we know we have a tough game, it is going to physically hard against them, we are going to have to defend and we are going to have to be good on the ball to keep the ball’.”

England face arguably their toughest task since the World Cup last year on Tuesday evening against Italy and can send out a message to other nations if they can defeat the four-time World Champions in Turin.

Are England a nation to fear in world football?

International Friendly Preview and Prediction: Italy vs England

Competition: International Friendly – Italy vs. England

Venue: Juventus Stadium, Italy – Tuesday, March 31 – 19:45 BST

Match Odds: Italy 6/5 – Draw 23/10 – England 23/10

Match Preview

England face Italy in Turin on Tuesday night in what is a blockbuster friendly to cap off the international break for the Three Lions.

These two nations have established quite a rivalry over the years. This is a fixture that saw David Beckham captain England for the first time and also saw Paul Ince wear a bloodied head bandage in that famous 0-0 draw in Rome that clinched qualification for the World Cup in 1998 for England.

It’s a fixture that has seen the nations meet four times in major competitions, including last summer’s World Cup as the Italians sealed a 2-1 victory against England in both sides’ opening games.

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But it was a disappointing summer in Brazil for both teams as they crashed out of the World Cup in the group stage behind Uruguay and Costa Rica in Group D.

Italy are coming into Tuesday’s game off the back of a 2-2 draw away in Bulgaria on Saturday in their European qualifier, keeping up their impressive record of going unbeaten through their last 45 qualifying fixtures, dating back to 2006.

Debutant Eder scored a late equaliser in Saturday’s draw in Sofia and the Azzurri are now two points off top spot in Group H, behind leaders Croatia who they play next in Zagreb on June 12th.

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Italy’s preparation for the match has been hampered by reported death threats towards manager Antonio Conte. They came after midfielder Claudio Marchisio picked up an injury in training which was said to rule him out for months but that has now been confirmed as weeks. Another blow for Italy is that Gianluigi Buffon missed the Bulgaria match with flu and is a doubt to face England.

For Roy Hodgson, everything is looking fantastic in the Euro 2016 qualifiers after another win left them on 15 points with 15 goals scored following their 4-0 demolition of Lithuania at Wembley on Friday night.

England’s very own debutant Harry Kane scored on his debut for the Three Lions and he could start for against Italy on Tuesday.

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England play Slovenia in their next qualifier on June 14th, and a win against the Italians will only keep boosting the confidence with the team hungry for future success.

England have seen some of their squad from the Lithuania match either head back to their clubs or pick up injuries that have ruled from out of the match against the Italians but the remaining members of the team will want to impress against one of Europe’s top sides.

Team News

Italy will definitely be without Claudio Marchisio and Andrea Pirlo, while doubts linger over Daniele De Rossi and Gianluigi Buffon. Southampton striker Graziano Pelle will be pushing to start in attack.

For England, Raheem Sterling, Danny Welbeck, Leighton Baines and James Milner will miss the trip. Ryan Bertrand has been called up as a replacement for Leighton Baines. After his impressive goal on Friday, Tottenham’s Harry Kane will be hopeful of forcing his way into the England starting eleven alongside Wayne Rooney, who needs just two goals to match Bobby Charlton’s all-time England goalscoring record.

Key Points

Italy’s last five: W/W/D/W/D

England’s last five: W/W/W/W/W

Key Stat: In 25 matches between the two nations, there has only been three 0-0 matches so we should see goals in Turin.

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Key Player: Wayne Rooney – The England captain is just two goals away from Bobby Charlton’s goalscoring record for England. He came agonisingly close to equalling it against Lithuania as he had multiple chances in front of goal. His confidence will be sky-high and he could cause the Italians problems.

Score Prediction

Italy 1-2 England – Without Pirlo pulling the strings for Italy, they lack so much creativity and that will be a huge boost for England. The Three Lions’ forceful attacking could lead to a goal or two and Hodgson will expect to see his side gain revenge for their 2-1 loss in Brazil last summer

Arsenal legend questions Hodgson’s England squad, criticises Spurs duo

Former Arsenal attacker Paul Merson has criticised Roy Hodgson’s England squad selection and feels that two of the Spurs players called up should not be there, along with a few others.

Merson feels that Andros Townsend and Kyle Walker do not deserve to be in the current England team and has questioned Hodgson’s supposed forward-thinking approach.

“I’m surprised by the squad. We’re not planning for the future,” Merson said in his column for the Daily Star.

“If Roy knew there was a six-year plan and he was the man to implement it, things would be different.

“The squad puzzles me. Roy went to see Manchester United against Tottenham the other week.

“He watched Andros Townsend have a stinker and get taken off after half an hour, and he watched Kyle Walker get absolutely rinsed.

“But he’s picked them both in his squad! If he’d already made up his mind, why bother going to the game?

“Townsend is only there because he played well for England 18 months ago. I thought it was supposed to be on form?”

Merson also questioned the decisions to bring in Ashley Young, Theo Walcott, Michael Carrick, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling.

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But he did have some praise for another Spurs star, Harry Kane. It’s impossible to criticise the young Tottenham striker, and although Merson is pleased to see him in the squad, he does not feel he is good enough to start at the European Championships next year.

“At least he picked Harry Kane. He deserves it. He’s been doing it every week. You can have your head turned when you get picked for England but he went and scored a hat-trick!

“He can play in the hole like Wayne Rooney or he can play in front of him. When he plays as a No 10 he still gets in the box all the time. But I’d play him in front of Rooney and let him run into the corners and open the game up.

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“Daniel Sturridge is still the man for me going into the Euros. I think he gives you a bit more pace. But Kane is the next best option off the bench.”

Kane scored from the bench on his debut in Friday night’s 4-0 win against Lithuania at Wembley and will be hoping to get his first start in Tuesday night’s friendly with Italy.

Do you agree with Paul Merson’s comments? Is the current England squad the best it could be?

Wayne Rooney close to ‘fantastic moment’ by entering history books

Manchester United and England striker Wayne Rooney is just three goals behind all-time England leading goalscorer, Sir Bobby Charlton and hopes he will become the highest goalscorer in national history “sooner rather than later”.

Rooney currently has 46 goals, compared to Charlton’s 49 and he stands a strong chance of eclipsing that record over this international break, especially in Friday’s home game against Lithuania.

Don’t Miss: Euro 2016 Qualifier Preview and Prediction: England vs Lithuania 

Rooney was quoted by Sky Sports as saying how proud he would be of the achievement.

“Obviously I am close. It will be a fantastic moment for myself, a proud moment if I can do that.”

The 29-year-old forward has plenty of time to surpass the record but isn’t focused on personal achievements and just wants to see the team succeed.

“Hopefully one day it will happen and sooner rather than later, I have to keep concentrating on what has got me to this position and try to do my best for the team and hopefully I can get goals along the way.”

After missing the chance to get on the scoresheet at Anfield in his last Manchester United game he will be keen to kick on and prove that his best position is as a striker, though Rooney isn’t worried about where he plays.

“I’m sure in other games [Van Gaal] might put me back in midfield, but I’m delighted to be playing up front and scoring goals. It’s helping us win football matches.”

The England captain will lead his side out in tonights qualifier against Lithuania at Wembley, knowing a hat-trick will put him level with Sir Bobby Charlton’s record.

Will Rooney become England’s all-time leading goalscorer this international break?

Chelsea line up shock move as £10m star’s replacement – report

Chelsea are preparing a surprise move for Queens Park Rangers goalkeeper Robert Green as a replacement for Petr Cech, who is set to depart this summer after 11 years with the club.

Cech, who has made 491 appearances for the club, is too good to sit on the Chelsea bench as backup to Thibaut Courtois as the Belgian has established himself as Jose Mourinho’s first-choice since returning from Atletico Madrid, where he spent three seasons on loan.

That means Cech will need to move on and at 32, he still has time ahead of him to enjoy his football. Mourinho will not stand in his way and that means a replacement for the Czech Republic international will be one of the Blues’ transfer priorities this summer.

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Mourinho likes to do his transfer business early and English ‘keeper Green looks like the primary target, according to a report in the Times.

Green has impressed despite playing for a QPR side that has struggled in the Premier League this season and relegation from the top flight will mean the R’s will need to sell.

Chelsea are looking to receive about £10 million for Cech and bringing in Green will cost the club considerably less than that.

The Times’ report suggests Green will be given a pay rise from his current £40,000 per-week wage if he agrees to a move to the Premier League leaders, but lack of regular playing time could be a concern for the former England No.1.

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Cech, who started in the Capital One Cup final at the start of the month, has told Czech paper Idnes that he does not want to sit on the bench for another season and that will spark interest from a host of European sides.

“It works with Thibaut. But I think it can work for only one season. I don’t want another season of this.”

Arsenal and Liverpool have been linked with a move for Cech but Chelsea would be unlikely to sell to English rivals. That will leave Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, AS Monaco, AC Milan and AS Roma left to fight for his signature.

Would Rob Green be a good signing for Chelsea? Does Petr Cech need to leave the club this summer?

Euro 2016 Qualifier Preview and Prediction: England vs Lithuania

Competition: European Championship Qualifier – England vs. Lithuania

Venue: Wembley Stadium, England – Friday, March 27 – 19:45 GMT

Match Odds: England 1/9 – Draw 7/1 – Lithuania 28/1

Match Preview

England host Lithuania at Wembley this Friday in what is both sides’ fifth European Championship Qualifier. Roy Hodgson‘s men are currently top of Group E with four wins from four and go into this game expecting to keep that 100% record intact.

Hodgson will be expecting his side to impress in a game they should win and has rewarded Tottenham goal-machine Harry Kane with his first senior call-up.

Don’t Miss: Former England goal-machine claims Harry Kane must start

This is the first time the England squad have linked up since November, where they played twice in a qualifier and a friendly, winning both.

This will also be the first game Lithuania have played since November. They lost in a friendly against Ukraine and were thumped 4-0 by Switzerland in their last European Qualifier.

Lithuania currently sit fourth in Group E but are level on six points with Switzerland and Slovenia after picking up wins against Estonia and San Marino in their opening games of qualification.

This is the first time the two sides have ever met and Lithuania come into the game without a win in three. England are unbeaten in their last seven, winning six on the bounce, and should be far too strong.

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Lithuanian head coach, Igoris Pankratjevas has worked in various areas with the national side having held previous roles as assistant coach and caretaker. He will have his players pumped and will be hoping they can surprise England on their own turf.

Team News

Roy Hodgson has already had to make some revisions to his team after losing Fraser Forster, Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Rose to injury. The news of Harry Kane making the squad has been well received, with many hoping he will partner Wayne Rooney up top in Friday’s game. Rooney has Sir Bobby Charlton’s international tally of 49 goals in his sights, needing just three to equal the all-time leading England record. Harry Kane’s Tottenham teammate Ryan Mason has come in as a replacement for Lallana and after an impressive season so far with his club, he too will be hoping for a chance to impress.

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Pankratjevas likes to pack out the middle of his team and when he opts for two up top we usually see one of the front men dropping back to make up a five-man midfield. Deivydas Matulevičius will more than likely spearhead the attack and he has five goals in 18 appearances for the national side. We can expect goalkeeper Giedrius Arlauskis to be the busier of the two stoppers and the 27 year old will be looking to make a name for himself.

Key Points

England’s last five: W/W/W/W/W

Lithuania’s last five: W/W/L/L/D

Key Stat: Goals – England have scored an average of almost three goals in each of their last five games. Both Wayne Rooney and Harry Kane will be looking to continue that trend.

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Key Player: Wayne Rooney – The England captain will be desperately looking to overtake Sir Bobby Charlton in the all-time England scorers charts but will expect his teammates to kill the game early and secure three points. Expect Rooney to put in a commanding display.

Score Prediction

England 3-0 Lithuania – Roy Hodgson will be hoping for much of the same from his side at Wembley and continue their 100% record in the qualifiers for Euro 2016. Nothing more than a win will be acceptable here and it should be a routine performance from the Three Lions.