Chelsea duo out, big defensive decisions for Southgate in England squad

England will travel to the World Cup finals in Qatar without Chelsea wing backs Reece James and Ben Chilwell, limiting the defensive options of coach Gareth Southgate when he is reportedly to name his 26-man squad for the tournament on Thursday.

The English press reports that Southgate has informed James that he won’t be taking him to Qatar, after the right back suffered a knee ligament injury in a Champions League win against AC Milan in October.

James hasn’t played since then and although he would probably be fit for the knockout stages (if England reaches them), he would have struggled to play in the group games against Iran, Wales and the USA.

Meanwhile, Chilwell, who would have competed with Manchester United’s Luke Shaw for a place on the left of the England defense, is also out after tearing a hamstring last week, reports Xinhua.

Southgate will probably take a risk on Manchester City’s Kyle Walker, who had an operation on a groin injury last month. Walker is expected to take some part in City’s last two games before the World Cup and his ability to play at either right back or in central defense makes him a key figure in the England setup.

The coach will also have to make a big decision on Manchester City midfielder Kalvin Phillips, who has been out with a shoulder injury since September. Phillips was a fixture in the 2021 European Championship, but has hardly played since moving to City from Leeds United in the summer.

Southgate also has to make up his mind over Harry Maguire, who has been one of the cornerstones of the England defense since 2018. But he is struggling for form at Manchester United and has made just one Premier League start since August.

Maguire played in the last Nations League games, but looked slugging and out of touch, making some important mistakes.

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