The World Cup countdown is firmly in place and England are two friendlies down out of four in their preparation for Russia. We are at stage now where no one really expects anything from us anymore and it is not hard to see why when our squad is quite clearly a cut below the likes of Spain, Brazil, Germany, Belgium and France.
The auditions are more or less over for Gareth Southgate’s men but in reality it seems we are nowhere near close enough to seeing the starting XI for the first game in Russia. Based on what we have already seen, this is what we believe must be the XI that Southgate starts with.
Goalkeeper: Jordan Pickford (Everton)
Arguably the most difficult of the positions to pick in the side but Pickford is just about the number one choice for me.
It has not been the easiest of seasons in a struggling Everton side but enjoyed a good spell at the end of the season.
I think with the football that Southgate wants to play, a build up play from the back, Pickford suits to it the most as he seems the best with his feet so can be relied on.
Back Three: John Stones (Manchester City), Harry Maguire (Leicester City), James Tarkowski (Burnley)
For the back three it seems it is going to be very young and the lack of experience will be an issue for me.
It does seem apparent however, that the older heads like Gary Cahill and Chris Smalling are out of the picture.
Joe Gomez could easily be in the pipeline along with Phil Jones and I personally do not see Kyle Walker being deployed there despite the last two games, I think it was more to try out the likes of Kieran Trippier at wing back instead.
Wing-backs: Kyle Walker (Manchester City), Danny Rose (Spurs)
I think this pair have got to be the most reliable pair for the wing back positions despite the injury problems that Rose has had.
Trippier and Young could easily take the positions as well and if Southgate did want to deploy Walker in a back three then Trippier is more than capable.
Midfielders: Eric Dier (Spurs) Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Liverpool)
This is not exactly a position we have been particularly blessed with since the golden era of your Gerrard’s and Lampard’s but I think this is the best partnership.
Eric Dier captained his country for the first time against Italy which tells you a lot about the average age in this team.
Despite what I would call a lack of real quality in this area, it is a position that ha depth to it and f course we have the likes of Adam Lallana and Dele Alli to choose from and even Jordan Henders..(sigh) sorry never mind.
There are many that would argue Jack Wilshere to be the most naturally talented in the area but his fitness could well be an issue.
Dele Alli has been a first name on the team sheet for a long time but he has been nowhere near good enough to warrant a definite starting position.
Forwards: Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Jesse Lingard (Manchester United), Harry Kane (Spurs)
It really depends what formation Southgate decides to go for, it has seemingly been a two man attack but Lingard is always going to be going into the more advanced role and more attacking than the other midfielders.
A fit Harry Kane simply has to be the first name on the team sheet and as for the final forward position you obviously have the likes of Rashford and Vardy as well as Sterling but the Manchester City man has been impressing in an England shirt recently despite his critics.
It is a position out of all of them that I do think England are fairly strong in.
Kane on his best form is as good as any striker in the world, Sterling has found the form of his life this season and then you have Rashford who has looked lively and Vardy smashed in a fine finish against the Italians.