Bukayo Saka is expected to start for England against Senegal in Sunday’s World Cup last-16 clash, Sky Sports News has learned.
Saka scored twice in England’s World Cup opening group-stage 6-2 win against Iran but did not find the net against the United States in the following match.
The 21-year-old Arsenal winger was then an unused substitute in the 3-0 win over Wales, with goalscorers Phil Foden and Marcus Rashford both preferred.
But Saka will now make his return to the starting line-up against Senegal on Sunday, as Gareth Southgate’s team look to make the quarter-finals for the third successive major tournament.
What does Saka inclusion mean for attacking line-up?
Sky Sports News’ senior reporter Melissa Reddy:
“Despite all the talk of an unchanged line-up, Saka is set to start. So one of Phil Foden or Marcus Rashford is expected to miss out.
“The fact Saka was rested in the last game, perhaps means this was always planned.
“That leaves a talking point over what Southgate will do elsewhere in attack. Foden and Rashford both offer something different – Rashford is direct but Foden’s grace and dynamism on the ball was on show against Wales. But I don’t think there will be many complaints about Saka’s inclusion.
“Raheem Sterling is also someone Southgate trusts, and Southgate has never started a knockout game without him; the Sterling-Kane combination has been one of the bedrocks of his management.”
Sky Sports News senior reporter Rob Dorsett:
The bulk of the side will no doubt remain unchanged. As, I expect, will the formation – 4-3-3 has worked well for England in the tournament so far, allowing them an extra man in midfield, so I would expect that to remain constant.
The back four is likely to be the same, though it’s a toss-up between Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier at right-back. Walker could well win that battle – his exceptional pace is a characteristic that Southgate has always valued, though without Trippier in the team, England lose some expertise with set pieces.
Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham are certain picks in the midfield, and Jordan Henderson could well get the nod ahead of Mason Mount, because of his extra experience and stabilising presence.
We know Harry Kane will lead the line for England, even though he is yet to score in this World Cup. The captain is not playing at full pace, but he insisted in the pre-match news conference he is fully fit and feeling great.
His involvement is still very valuable: three assists match the most any Englishman has managed at a World Cup since David Beckham more than two decades ago.
So the biggest areas of contention surround England’s wide attacking positions, which have been the subject of much debate since the win over Wales. In truth, long before that game too.
Expect Jack Grealish to remain as England’s super-sub, and so it’s a question of ‘which two from four’, with persuasive arguments possible for each of Rashford, Foden, Sterling and Saka.
Saka is expected to start, while Southgate said in his pre-match news conference that he’s “not sure there’s a right or wrong” choice, because all four are exceptional and each of them offers something different. That’s very true.
He also pointed out – correctly – that with five substitutes available, each of them has the possibility of making an impact off the bench.
Amongst the media massive there’s speculation that, because Henderson, Rashford and Foden have done media interviews in the last few days, they must be in the starting team. I’m not sure the FA or Southgate works like that.
Round of 16 – Sunday December 4
England vs Senegal – Kick-off 7pm
Quarter-finals – Saturday December 10
England vs France or Poland – Kick-off 7pm
Semi-finals – Wednesday December 14
England vs Morocco/Spain/Portugal/Switzerland – Kick-off 7pm
Sunday December 4
France (Winners of Group D) vs Poland (Runners-up of Group C) – Kick-off 3pm
England (Winners of Group B) vs Senegal (Runners-up of Group A) – Kick-off 7pm
Monday December 5
Japan (Cinners of Group E) vs Croatia (Runners-up of Group F) – Kick-off 3pm
Brazil (Winners of Group G) vs South Korea (Runners-up of Group H) – Kick-off 7pm
Tuesday December 6
Morocco (Winners of Group F) vs Spain (Runners-up of Group E) – Kick-off 3pm
Portugal (Winners of Group H) vs Switzerland (Runners-up of Group G) – Kick-off 7pm