Following the thumping victory over Montenegro which sealed qualification for Euro 2020, Gareth Southgate has a bit of freedom to experiment against Kosovo later today to see what some of his fringe players have to offer.
In theory it would be the last ‘competitive’ game for England before the tournament. Neither team has anything to play for but you can be pretty sure a victory would mean everything to Kosovo.
Sky Sports have reported that Southgate is expected to make some changes. They’ve stated that Nick Pope will make is first start in the game while Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi will make just his second start for England.
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They go on to suggest that there could be further changes, with John Stones expected to be rested, while James Maddison has a slight calf injury that he’s dealing with.
It could be a huge opportunity for Hudson-Odoi to force his way into the manager’s plans for next summer’s tournament. It’s reasonable to expect he will play a lot for Chelsea if he stays fit for the rest of the season, so a good performance here could give him an outside shot of a starting spot next summer.
Although Chelsea fans’ priority will be how the youngster plays for his club, there’s also sure to be a sense of pride in seeing one of their homegrown talents making an impact at international level too.
A lot, however, may depend on Raheem Sterling’s situation. Southgate’s strongest front three right now looks like Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Harry Kane, so anyone else will likely need injuries or a loss of form from one of those to find a way into the team.
As for Nick Pope, it’s unlikely that he would establish himself as the number one, but Jordan Pickford hasn’t looked particularly convincing in recent times, so it could be a big chance for him too.