England star ‘to make first start’ vs Slovakia as Southgate ‘avoids wholesale changes’

Jason Soutar
England midfielder Kobbie Mainoo replaces Jude Bellingham
Kobbie Mainoo replaces Jude Bellingham

Manchester United midfielder Kobbie Mainoo is expected to start for England in their Euro 2024 last-16 clash against Slovakia, according to reports.

Mainoo earned a spot in the Three Lions’ squad for the European Championship following an outstanding breakout season for the Red Devils.

The Clamour for him to start at Euro 2024 has been relentless, with England fans calling for Mainoo, Chelsea’s Cole Palmer and Newcastle United’s Anthony Gordon to be brought in by Gareth Southgate.

After two underwhelming performances to kick off the tournament, Southgate opted to bring in Conor Gallagher for Trent Alexander-Arnold as his only change against Slovenia on matchday three.

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There was an improvement to the 1-1 draw against Denmark but it was another poor result and performance as England drew 0-0.

Gallagher only lasted 45 minutes as Mainoo was brought on by Southgate for the second half in Cologne, making his second substitute appearance of Euro 2024.

The Three Lions looked a lot better following the 19-year-old’s introduction and is now set to receive his first start of the tournament when England take on Slovakia in the last 16 on Sunday.

England starting XI vs Slovakia all but revealed

According to the Daily Mail, Mainoo ‘is in line to start’ but Southgate is expected to ‘avoid wholesale changes’.

The ‘big impression’ he made against Slovenia makes him the frontrunner to partner Declan Rice in midfield, the report adds, meaning Southgate could give the Arsenal star his third midfield partner of the tournament after only four games.

Unfortunately for Palmer, Gordon, and everyone who wants them in the team, Southgate ‘is preparing to keep faith with the majority of his preferred XI’.

There is a decision to be made in left-back, however, with Newcastle United’s Kieran Trippier facing a late fitness test.

Trippier has ‘not trained fully over the past 48 hours’ due to a ‘minor calf issue’ that he struggled with during the 2023/24 season with Newcastle.

Mainoo’s Man Utd team-mate Luke Shaw has returned to full training but might not make Sunday’s match, meaning Southgate could turn to Ezri Konsa or Joe Gomez if Trippier isn’t fit.

Shaw has not played since the Red Devils’ 3-2 win at Luton Town on February 18 and many, including Erik ten Hag, have questioned why Southgate decided to include him in his final 26-man squad.

Arsenal legend Ian Wright suggested that Bukayo Saka could be an option for the left-back spot but the player has insisted that is not the answer to England’s problems.

“I love Ian Wright and he says so many great things about me but I don’t think putting me out position is the solution,” Saka said

“But at the end of the day, I think we can we can talk about this but it’s in Gareth’s hands so we will just have to trust whoever Gareth selects on the day.”

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