Gareth Southgate is expected to offer Harry Maguire a much-needed vote of confidence by starting the Manchester United captain against Italy in England’s final game before the World Cup.
Maguire, 29, has been replaced at the center of Manchester United’s defense in recent weeks after playing on teams that allowed six goals against Brentford and Brighton & Hove Albion.
However, Maguire has frequently outperformed expectations for England when Southgate has relied upon him, and he is thought to be at ease and assured in the circumstance. With the second-most playing time behind Kyle Walker of Manchester City and the most clean sheets out of any center-back under Southgate, Maguire’s experience among England’s defenders at the international level is evident in the team.
In a pre-game press conference on Thursday, Southgate expressed confidence in the former Leicester City defender and addressed his recent absence from club action by saying: “Clearly, it’s not an ideal situation.
“You want your best players playing regularly so that they’re physically in a good place and mentally in a good place.”
The England manager, however, reiterated his confidence in the Manchester United captain, adding: “But he is an important player for us. I think it’s important to back our best players.
“He understands that he’s at a big club, a big transfer fee and captain of the club so I think that’s why the spotlight has been on him more.
“He’s focused on training well every day and getting himself back in the team. The squad we’ve picked, there are a fair number of players you could argue we could have left out, but I think we wanted to keep that group together and to keep them involved.
“But also they know that, for some of them, that they need to be playing more regularly because now we’re only a few weeks on from pre-season, so, physically, if they’ve had a few 90 minutes, that’s fine. Another seven or eight weeks, that does start to become more complicated.”
After earning two points from their first four games, England is currently last in Nations League A Group 2 and is in danger of being demoted to the lower level of the competition.
In their penultimate encounter before the World Cup in Qatar, Southgate’s team will play Germany on Monday at Wembley following the match against Italy.