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Defender Misses England Training Ahead of Euros Opener

England players train before Euros

England’s Euro 2024 preparations have taken a hit as John Stones has missed the latest Three Lions training session through illness.

John Stones Absent From Wednesday Training

Gareth Southgate Given Something To Think About

When the England squad for this summer’s tournament was announced, eyebrows were raised at the names included in the defensive areas. Provisional squad names such as Harry Maguire – known for his reliability under Southgate despite issues at club level – and Everton’s Jarrad Branthwaite, one of the Premier League’s standout players this season in a struggling Everton side, were seen by many as shoe-ins to be on the plane to Germany with the belief one of them would pair up with Stones at the heart of defence, with the likes of Lewis Dunk and Ezri Konsa expected to be left out of the final 26.

However, the opposite has happened, with Maguire and Branthwaite set to watch their teammates conquer Europe from the comfort of their living rooms.

Now, with the news from The Standard that Stones has skipped training four days before England’s Group C opener against Serbia, nerves are kicking in as to who will start at centre-back on Sunday should the Manchester City man – who was also taken off at halftime in the friendly defeat to Iceland on Friday through injury- not make the starting 11 in Gelsenkirchen.

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It’s also not too promising that Stones did not feature in six of City’s final seven league matches on route to winning their fourth consecutive league title, playing just 21 minutes against Wolves in Matchweek 36, his last sighting before the league’s conclusion.

England’s Lack of Experience at The Back

A central defensive partnership of Maguire and Stones at the Euros would have boasted an impressive 135 caps’ worth of England experience this summer, but if the City man cannot start against Serbia, Southgate’s next most seasoned centreback would come in the form of Joe Gomez, who has just 15 caps for his country and has never started at a major tournament. The other names in Dunk, Konsa and Marc Guehi have just 21 caps between them.

Defensive woes will be further amplified by the fact that Luke Shaw – the only left back called up by Southgate – is highly unlikely to start his side’s tournament opener, meaning that Kieran Trippier or Kyle Walker may be forced to play out of position in order to fill in for their hampered teammate.

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For a team that is considered one of the favourites to go all the way in Germany this summer, there is understandable cause for concern, especially when you look at a team like France whose five centrebacks have a combined 133 caps. After all, in the words of Sir Alex Ferguson: “Attack wins you games, defence wins you titles.”

The Dangers England Could Face

Noses were turned up when England’s group opponents were announced back in December, but some of the names the Three Lions will be tasked with keeping quiet suggest that their ignorance was unjust.

In Serbia, they have to keep Aleksandar Mitrovic – a man who’s just come off the back of a 40-goal season in Saudi Arabia – quiet, while also nullifying the threats of Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and the two Dusans in Vlahovic and Tadic, the latter captain of his nation.

Demark have the Manchester United duo of Rasmus Hojlund and Christian Eriksen, the two brightest hopes for their nation, while Slovenia have one of the continent’s brightest young strikers in Benjamin Sesko, and in Jan Oblak they possess one of the best goalkeepers in the world, so he won’t be easily beaten.

Should Stones pull through and return to full health and fitness before Sunday, England fears will no doubt be eased but the worst-case scenario still remains a possibility, meaning Southgate will have to think long and hard about how his alternative options should he be presented with a defensive setback.


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