The players Gareth Southgate should give a chance to against Malta, including Chelsea’s new main man

He has a chance to experiment tonight.

The players Gareth Southgate should give a chance to against Malta, including Chelsea’s new main man
Gareth Southgate, England Manager portrait before the UEFA EURO 2024 European qualifier match between England and Italy at Wembley Stadium.
Southgate has a chance to experiment tonight against Malta Picture: Getty)

With England’s passage to Euro 2024 safely secured following their 3-1 win against Italy last month, the latest international break offers Gareth Southgate a welcome chance to experiment with his lineup.

A double-header against Malta and North Macedonia may not be the most appetising of contests, but with only one further international break in the new year ahead of Euro 204, it proves a vital fortnight for the England boss to fine-tune his squad.

With injuries to key players such as John Stones and Jude Bellingham, the opportunity is there for fringe players and recent call-ups to stake their claim for a spot in the Euro 2024 squad.

That audition starts tonight against lowly-ranked Malta at Wembley. Here are four players who could get the opportunity to shine.

Cole Palmer

Chelsea’s new star man has been a revelation since his surprise move from Manchester City in the summer. Former boss Pep Guardiola spoke of the 21-year-old’s desire to play more regularly this season – a desire City couldn’t fulfil – but Palmer has certainly made the most of his new lease of life at Stamford Bridge, with his last-gasp penalty against his former side last weekend his sixth goal contribution in nine league games.

Cole Palmer of England looks on during an England Training Session at St Georges Park on November 16, 2023.
Palmer has impressed since his summer move to Chelsea (Picture: Getty)

Such form has opened the door for a maiden senior call-up after the injuries sustained by James Maddison and Jude Bellingham, gifting the young playmaker a chance to prove himself ahead of the Euros.

Southgate’s latest evolution of his England side has seen the return to prominence of the traditional number ten role. Bellingham has thrived with such freedom in recent games and Palmer should be given the chance to deputise in that role against Malta.

His chances of making the final squad next summer would still appear slim but bringing some excitement to tonight’s game against Malta could be the first step in forcing himself into Southgate’s reckoning come next summer.

Ezri Konsa

The Aston Villa centre-back was all set for a mid-season holiday to Dubai when he received a last-minute maiden call-up to the England squad as an injury replacement for Lewis Dunk.

While the prospect of escaping the British winter gloom may have been welcome, the chance to impress the England boss and force his way into his thoughts for next summer will be all the more exciting.

Ezri Konsa of England speaks with Gareth Southgate, Head Coach of England, during an England Gym Session at St George's Park.
The Villa centre-back will be keen to impress (Picture: Getty)

The 26-year-old has quietly become the lynchpin of Unai Emery’s defensive effort at Aston Villa, starting every minute in the Premier League for a team that have continued their rapid ascent under the Spaniard and now sit just a point off the top four.

A potential debut against Malta shouldn’t present Konsa with the sternest of tests, but Southgate would be wise to give him a chance to stake his claim for a spot in the squad. Harry Maguire and John Stones remain his preferred duo, while Marc Guehi appears to have become his third choice, but Konsa has the pace and ball-playing prowess to be of consideration for that fourth spot along with Levi Colwill, Fikayo Tomori and the aforementioned Dunk.

Jarrod Bowen

Such are the fervent clamours for Raheem Sterling’s re-introduction to this England squad, few people seem to have taken note of the fact that the West Ham winger is the top-scoring Englishman in the Premier League so far this season.

Jarrod Bowen of England on the ball during the International Friendly match between England and Australia at Wembley Stadium, London.
Bowen started against Australia in the previous international break (Picture: Getty)

Eight goals in twelve games, including three in his last three, should more than justify his inclusion in Southgate’s latest squad. But the 26-year-old – yet to score in an England shirt – continues to face a battle on his hands to justify his long-term future in this squad, particularly the trimmed-down version that will travel to Germany next summer.

Bowen looked bright, in parts, against Australia last month and should be afforded to opportunity to impress from the start on Friday at Wembley but impress he must. His position in the squad is much coveted and he must stake his claim for it on Friday to ensure he doesn’t lose out to those waiting in the wings.

Aaron Ramsdale

With his starting berth at Arsenal long since taken, Ramsdale must now be wising up to the fact his position in this England squad is coming under similar jeopardy.

Aaron Ramsdale of England trains during an England Training Session at St Georges Park on November 16, 2023.
Ramsdale could be (Picture: Getty)

Southgate has been frank about his inability to guarantee for the 25-year-old certainty over his England future if he remains on the bench for the foreseeable future, but tonight’s fixture against Malta could offer him the chance to test Ramsdale’s mettle.

Pickford remains the set-and-forget first choice under Southgate and Sam Johnstone may well have earned second-choice status having started against Australia last month.

Ramsdale capability with the ball at his feet has seen him named ahead of Nick Pope in the squad – for now – but the Arsenal number two could soon be faced with an ultimatum in January if he wants to punch his ticket to Germany come the end of the season.

MORE : England boss Gareth Southgate explains why Cole Palmer was called up ahead of Raheem Sterling

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