England practice three backs for the opening Euro 2020 match against Croatia

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England are back in three practices for the opening Euro 2020 game against Croatia as an injury to key defender Harry Maguire forces Gareth Southgate to reconsider his form… and Conor Coady is favorite to replace the Manchester United captain

England manager Gareth Southgate will look into returning to a three-man defense for the European Championship amid growing concerns that Harry Maguire could miss the group stage.

Southgate has recently switched to a back four and will try to return to the tried and true 3-4-3 – who helped England to the 2018 World Cup semi-finals – in training ahead of next Sunday’s European Championship opener against Croatia .

The absence of first-choice centre-back Maguire for that game will in any case lead to a reconsideration as Southgate want to give his defense more protection.

Gareth Southgate will investigate this summer whether he will return to a three-man defense for the European Championship

Gareth Southgate will investigate this summer whether he will return to a three-man defense for the European Championship

Maguire was named in Southgate’s 26-man squad earlier this week, despite an ankle ligament injury that has kept him sidelined since May 9.

Sportsmail understands initial concerns have been that Maguire’s recovery could take six to eight weeks, but there are hopes he will be available sooner.

There is great doubt about Maguire’s involvement in the match against Scotland on June 18, which is likely to be the most intense and grueling of all English group matches.

England’s last group stage match is against the Czech Republic on June 22, just over six weeks after he sustained the injury.

Harry Maguire's fitness issues have forced England boss to rethink his defense plans

Harry Maguire's fitness issues have forced England boss to rethink his defense plans

Harry Maguire’s fitness issues have forced England boss to rethink his defense plans

The system worked well during the 2018 World Cup when England reached the semi-finals

The system worked well during the 2018 World Cup when England reached the semi-finals

The system worked well during the 2018 World Cup when England reached the semi-finals

There will also be concerns about fitness and sharpness as Maguire has not played since sustaining the injury at Villa Park on May 9. Southgate takes a realistic picture of Maguire’s condition and makes emergency plans.

The Three Lions boss has often talked about the need for his team to be flexible when it comes to systems.

After starting a back-four against Austria on Wednesday, England closed the game with a three-man defense.

The formation Southgate will start with in Sunday’s final pre-tournament friendly against Romania will not necessarily indicate how he will fare against Croatia. Champions League finalists Kyle Walker, John Stones and Reece James – who would be in contention to start on the defensive – will miss the game.

Southgate has called for flexibility and will test the system in training before June 13

Southgate has called for flexibility and will test the system in training before June 13

Southgate has called for flexibility and will test the system in training before June 13

The Manchester City and Chelsea players involved in last week’s final in Porto have now reported for duty and could be on the bench but are unlikely to appear.

If Southgate plays back with a three, two slots will likely be taken by City pair Walker and Stones, while Conor Coady and Tyrone Mings will battle it out for last place.

It is clear that Coady is the favorite to play if Southgate decides to use 3-4-3. If he sticks to 4-2-3-1, Coady would probably play alongside Stones.

Wolves captain Conor Coady is the favorite to replace Maguire if he is unavailable for England

Wolves captain Conor Coady is the favorite to replace Maguire if he is unavailable for England

Wolves captain Conor Coady is the favorite to replace Maguire if he is unavailable for England

The move to a conventional back-four in recent months has enabled England to assemble an additional attacker.

But a 3-4-3 formation would mean one less place in England’s front line. It’s a tough decision for Southgate with Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, Mason Mount, Jadon Sancho and Phil Foden all vying for three places.

Jordan Henderson trained normally on Friday and hopes to make his first appearance for club and country since February after groin surgery.

But even if he comes through unscathed on Sunday, Southgate has admitted he will likely be without his vice-captain before the start of the game against Croatia.

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