Bukayo Saka set to START in England’s World Cup opener against Iran over Phil Foden with Gareth Southgate set to go enthusiastic in Qatar…with Harry Maguire and Jude Bellingham also in line to make the starting XI
Bukayo Saka is set to top Phil Foden in a starting role in England’s World Cup opener against Iran on Monday as Gareth Southgate prepares to go wild here in Doha.
England boss Southgate has been deliberating whether to play Saka or Foden in Monday’s clash at the Khalifa Stadium, but the Arsenal star is understood to be hoping to get the go-ahead. The news will come as a surprise given Foden’s form for Manchester City this season.
But Saka is in line to be rewarded for his brilliant form at the Emirates Stadium with a statement start.
Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka will start in England’s first World Cup match against Iran.
Southgate is ready to use a back-four against Iran in what is expected to be an attractive line-up. As well as the early inclusion of Saka, the England boss is also set to unleash wonder kid Jude Bellingham on the World Cup stage. There has been a clamor for the 19-year-old Bellingham to start the tournament for England following an impressive season for Borussia Dortmund.
And Southgate is ready to give his teenage sensation a World Cup debut right out of the gate. The England boss is keen to keep faith with Harry Maguire in central defense despite his struggles at club level. John Stones is expected to play alongside Maguire.
Phil Foden is set to be on the bench but could start for England later in the group stage.
Harry Maguire is in line to start for England against Iran despite their problems at club level
Kieran Trippier and Luke Shaw are hoping to be selected at full-back, while Declan Rice and Mason Mount could get the nod alongside Bellingham in midfield. Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane should join Saka in attack for England, while Jordan Pickford will play in goal.
Southgate stressed on Sunday that he plans to rotate his team through the group stages, which will offer Foden the chance to play regularly throughout the tournament, possibly starting against the USA and Wales. Foden can also appear as a substitute against Iran.
THREE PLAYERS FROM IRAN TO SEE
Mehdi Taremi (Porto) – Forward
Iran’s biggest threat and its outstanding player. The 30-year-old number 9 has scored and assisted goals at Porto since he was 20. He could play on the right of a three-pointer here, running into the falls of target man Sardar Azmoun.
Porto striker Mehdi Taremi is the standout talent in Iran’s squad facing England
Saeid Ezatolahi (Vejle, Denmark) – Midfielder
Tall, elegant defensive midfielder, who plays with his head held high, has time on the ball and links the game. He never fully fulfilled his initial promise after a season at Atlético de Madrid as a youth squad. He has occasional tendency to not move the ball fast enough, which England could take advantage of.
Another Iranian player to watch out for is the tall and graceful defensive midfielder Saeid Ezatolahi.
Hossein Kanani (Al Ahli SC, Qatar) – Defender
An official who has never reached the big leagues but has more potential to frustrate England, as a defensive pillar of a feisty and aggressive Iran. The 28-year-old, who plays for a Qatari club, literally went head-to-head with Luis Suárez in the recent 1-0 friendly win over Uruguay.
Al Ahli’s Hossein Kanani is the defensive mainstay of a feisty and aggressive Iranian side.
England manager Gareth Southgate is set to field four defensemen for Monday’s game.
Southgate is likely to start 19-year-old midfielder Jude Bellingham when England take on Iran
Kyle Walker is not fit enough to play against Iran as he continues to work towards full fitness after groin surgery, but the Manchester City defender hopes to be ready for the USA game on Friday James Maddison has been ruled out of Iran’s opener after On Sunday he missed training again with a knee problem.
ENGLAND (4213): Pickford; Trippier, Stones, Maguire, Shaw; Rice, Bellingham; Mount; Sterling, Kane, Saka.