Trent Alexander-Arnold has become the fifth player to withdraw from England’s squad for the Euro 2020 qualifiers against Czech Republic and Montenegro after returning to Liverpool for treatment on a back injury.
The right-back has been nursing the problem since Liverpool’s victory against Burnley 10 days ago, and was withdrawn late in that 4-2 win. The 20-year-old reported to the national squad this week in the hope the injury would ease and he might be involved at Wembley and in Podgorica, but he has endured further discomfort.
Gareth Southgate enjoys a good relationship with Liverpool and, having seen the full-back cut short his summer break after the World Cup to return early for preseason, the England senior setup are understanding of the situation. Alexander-Arnold has played 32 games for club and country this season, his progress interrupted briefly by a knee injury sustained in mid-January. He joins Fabian Delph, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, John Stones and Luke Shaw in withdrawing.
England retain Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier as options at right‑back, with Southgate resisting the temptation to call up the uncapped Aaron Wan-Bissaka from the under‑21s. The Crystal Palace defender has had an eye-catching season but Southgate would prefer him to play a key role for Aidy Boothroyd’s side, who are preparing for the summer’s European Championship in San Marino and Italy. Wan-Bissaka is expected to play on Thursday against Poland at Ashton Gate.
Marcus Rashford’s ankle injury is being monitored, with Jadon Sancho an option alongside Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling in a front three. Michael Keane may partner Harry Maguire at centre-half having regained form with Everton over recent weeks.
“I know I’ve had a few games where I could have done better, but that’s normal,” Keane said. “It’s about trying to get over it as quick as possible. That’s something I didn’t manage to do last season.”
England are set to play their qualifier against Kosovo in September at Southampton. It will be the first time St Mary’s has hosted the national side since October 2002.
Tom Heaton believes his battle to regain his position as Burnley’s first-choice goalkeeper can help in his quest to usurp Jordan Pickford as England’s No 1.
The 32-year-old won the last of his three caps in 2017 and was on standby for the World Cup last summer but has earned a recall by virtue of his excellent performances for his club since he was brought back into Burnley’s team at the turn of the year.
Heaton has seen off the challenge of fellow England goalkeepers Joe Hart and Nick Pope to become the undisputed first choice at Burnley, although Pickford is set to retain his place against Czech Republic. Heaton missed the majority of the 2017-18 season with injury.
“The first step was to get back involved and then hopefully kick on,” he said. “That is certainly my plan. If you have an injury that keeps you out for a long time, football does not wait, it carries on. Both Nick and Joe have played very well and nabbed the shirt, so it can be very difficult … I hope there is a robustness there in terms of my mentality towards it and it would be nice to use that going forward.”