Harry Maguire will start England’s World Cup opener in a back four against Iran with Gareth Southgate set to play 4-3-3.
Southgate’s change of formation means there is room for an additional midfielder in the starting XI, with Jude Bellingham likely to make his first World Cup start.
Reports elsewhere suggest Bukayo Saka will be given the nod ahead of Phil Foden on the right wing.
Maguire’s inclusion is controversial given he has made just one Premier League start since September, but the Manchester United defender has been an integral part of England’s last two major tournaments.
The 29-year-old played a key role in the 2018 Three Lions World Cup semi-final and was later named in the team of the tournament as England finished runners-up at Euro 2020.
But Bellingham’s departure is less controversial with the 19-year-old enjoying a stellar season at Borussia Dortmund with nine goals in 22 appearances in all competitions this campaign.
Southgate seeks to break stubborn Iran
Sky Sports News senior reporter Rob Dorsett in Qatar:
“Gareth Southgate will start this World Cup campaign with a flat back four with Harry Maguire at the heart of defense with John Stones alongside him.
“It frees up space in midfield and means he can go 4-3-3, and it looks increasingly likely that 19-year-old Jude Bellingham will make his World Cup debut for England in the XI. departure.
“He’s also played very well in the big Champions League games and he looks in very good form. What he offers England is something a little different as a box-midfielder. to-box that neither Declan Rice, nor Kalvin Phillips, nor Mason Mount can do.
“That energy and athleticism according to Gareth Southgate could be absolutely essential as they try to break down a stubborn Iranian defense which we hope to sit very, very deep and use a fairly low block against England.
“Now the inclusion of Harry Maguire was fully expected. I said on Sky Sports News for several months now i thought he was going to start this game from a southgate perspective its important to give him playing time and give him a vote of confidence from the start that you are my man in the middle of the defense.
“But that won’t stop haters and critics who will say Harry Maguire shouldn’t be in that starting 11 because he hasn’t played enough football, his confidence is low and there are players who are in much better shape than him.
“It looks like Bukayo Saka will be playing with Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling in that top three, so 4-3-3 with just one traditional midfielder in Declan Rice doesn’t seem so prudent.
“It seems like a slight change from what we’ve seen in Southgate’s recent majors, probably because he knows Iran won’t offer too many advances and England will have to make big moves. efforts and be patient to break them down.”
Maddison and Walker out of game against Iran
James Maddison and Kyle Walker will miss England’s opener at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha.
Walker is still recovering from groin surgery, while Maddison has yet to train since arriving in Qatar after suffering a knee problem.
“Kyle Walker is a bit short for this game but is progressing very well. We’re ahead of what we thought he might be at this stage,” Southgate said at his press conference on Sunday.
“James hasn’t been able to train since we arrived so he won’t be able to play tomorrow.”
Southgate continued: “Our challenge is to provide our supporters with a memorable tournament. We have taken them on fantastic journeys in our lives to tournaments.
“Our country is also going through a difficult period – not the same as some other countries in the world.
“But we are in an economic recession and life has been difficult for many of our people, so we want them to enjoy their football and take a trip with our team that brings real happiness.”
England to kneel ahead of Iran opener
England will take a knee ahead of their World Cup opener against Iran, Southgate has confirmed.
England made the gesture against racism and inequality in 33 consecutive matches when football returned following the Covid-19 shutdown.
England haven’t taken a knee in the September fixtures, but they will make the gesture in Monday’s Group B opener and beyond at the World Cup.
“We discussed taking the knee,” Southgate said. “We think we should. It’s what we stand for as a team and have been doing for a long time.
“Of course we understand in the Premier League that clubs have decided to only do it for certain games, the big occasions, we think that’s the biggest.
“We think it’s a strong statement to go around the world for young people in particular to see that inclusivity is very important.”
Premier League captains decided before the start of this season to use specific times to take a knee rather than making the gesture every game.
The teams agreed to perform the act before the first round, dedicated “No place for racism” matches in October and March, Boxing Day and the final round, as well as the FA Cup and Carabao Cup finals.