LONDON (Reuters) – England could field one of their youngest sides in their 1000th international when they face Montenegro in a Euro 2020 qualifier at Wembley, manager Gareth Southgate said on Wednesday.
Southgate picked the youngest England starting side this century when they upset Spain 3-2 in Seville in the Nations League last year and he said the record could be broken again on Thursday.
“It’ll be a very young line-up for sure. I think the line-up against Spain was one of the youngest for decades and I think, without sitting down to work it out, we are going to be even younger than that,” Southgate told reporters.
“We have had teams of potential and promise forever, but this group went further than most of those last summer. I don’t think we were the most experienced or the most talented team during that period but we delivered.
“We are looking forward to tomorrow night’s game. Not only the opportunity to qualify for the European Championship but also the occasion. England’s 1,000th game will be special for everyone associated with the team now and in the past.”
England, who play Kosovo on Sunday, need to pick up a point from their remaining games to secure their place in next year’s finals.
James Maddison could make his debut on Thursday, after the Leicester City playmaker was sent home from last month’s game in the Czech Republic due to illness.
“He’s a player of outstanding technical ability, you can see that. He has an eye for an incisive pass, his set-play delivery is world-class — absolutely top,” Southgate said.
Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling will not feature after being dropped following a row with Liverpool’s Joe Gomez and Southgate stressed that his decision was right for the team.
“I have to always look at what’s right for getting this team to perform for the country. My decision are the only ones that get tested over the following months and years… I don’t take any enjoyment from it,” he said.
“I wouldn’t imagine that he is hugely enthusiastic and I can understand that. He is a massive part of what we do and he is part of the group, but for me the thing is finished.
“Raheem is an excellent player who has been in great form, but we will put out a team full of technical ability and passion and enthusiasm. Everyone in the squad is ready. It’s hardly ever any different.”
(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond)