Gareth Southgate happy to see Champions League rivals ‘together’ in England camp

Gareth Southgate has been pleased to see no “overhang” from the Champions League finalists in his England ranks as they linked up ahead of the European Championship.

Seven of Southgate’s 26-man squad were involved in last week’s final as Chelsea beat Manchester City 1-0.

They joined the rest of their team-mates on Friday and will not feature in Sunday’s final warm-up fixture against Romania at the Riverside Stadium.

Chelsea’s Reece James, left, tackles Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling in the Champions League final
Chelsea’s Reece James, left, tackles Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling in the Champions League final (Nick Potts/PA)

Externally, there had been some concern how the players from the rival sides would acclimatise to working together so soon after the final – but Southgate has been impressed.

“They have been excellent, I have to say,” he said of Kyle Walker, John Stones, Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Mason Mount, Reece James and Ben Chilwell.

“The training sessions, all of the players have picked up immediately, there doesn’t seem to be any overhang at all.

“The group is in together socially, you can see at dinner that they’ve all enjoyed getting back with their England colleagues.

“So as far as we’re concerned, if you didn’t know those games had taken place and you weren’t specifically looking for things then I genuinely don’t think you would know anything different.”

Southgate confirmed none of the seven would play against Romania but opened the door to his Manchester United players being involved.

While Harry Maguire remains sidelined with an ankle injury, his club-mates Dean Henderson, Luke Shaw and Marcus Rashford are in contention having linked up with England on Wednesday – a week on from their Europa League final defeat to Villarreal.

Luke Shaw, left, and Marcus Rashford, centre
Luke Shaw, left, and Marcus Rashford, centre, could be involved (Rafal Oleksiewicz/PA)

“It is more likely that the boys that were involved in Europa League final (will play), they’ve been with us a bit longer,” Southgate explained.

“The others reported a bit later, I don’t think the training periodisation would be right to put them into Sunday’s game.”

He may not have all of his players available but Southgate will still want to use the game against Romania to learn more about his team.

He told BBC Radio 5Live that it is “unlikely” that captain Harry Kane will be involved, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin therefore in line to start in attack.

Jordan Henderson is another who Southgate intends to involve, having been unable to do so in Wednesday’s win over Austria.

The Liverpool captain has not played since February following groin surgery and was set to make his comeback in midweek, only to miss out after complaining of discomfort on the morning of the match.

Jordan Henderson warms up with England
Jordan Henderson warms up with England (Lindsey Parnaby/PA)

“The plan, as it was on Wednesday, will be that he’s involved in the game,” Southgate said of the midfielder.

“The last two or three days training have been a lot more positive for him. I think the confidence of having a scan that showed no issues has helped him to push forward with his rehabilitation and with his training so he’s been visibly happier within himself, I think, and that’s a positive sign.”

Some had suggested Southgate may be tempted to look at a back three in England’s final friendly before the Euros given stalwart Maguire remains out, but balancing minutes rather than style will be key on Sunday.

“Well, we are conscious of looking at different players, looking at different systems,” the Three Lions boss added. “We’ll try things in training.

“We’re not necessarily looking at [a back three] for tomorrow because we’re looking at a system that gets the players the minutes on the pitch.

“We’ve got some that need minutes, we’ve got some that don’t need too many. We’ve got some that don’t need any. That is a big part of our conundrum for tomorrow’s game, really, so that’s a bit of a jigsaw.

“But it’s a good opportunity for players to come in and a good opportunity for everybody to play well and to build on what we did the other night.”