Today’s the day. England take on Italy in Milan in what is a crunch clash between the Euro 2020 finalists in the UEFA Nations League, with Gareth Southgate’s side needing to win to avoid relegation from the League A.
And while this is deemed to be an important match for many, a lot of supporters are more interested in individual performances this evening as they deliberate on who they feel should start England's opening World Cup match against Iran in two months’ time.
To give them a helping hand, WhoScored.com have posted the average match ratings for each of England’s 26-man squad based on their starts in the domestic season. From this, here is how the Three Lions could shape up in Qatar.
Goalkeeper - Nick Pope (Newcastle United) - 7.12
What? No Jordan Pickford? It would appear not. It is undeniable that all of Southgate’s goalkeeping options, including Aaron Ramsdale, have enjoyed bright starts to the 2022-23 campaign. But in the Premier League, Pope boasts the most saves with 30 and has also kept three clean sheets in his first seven matches.
Right centre-back - Reece James (Chelsea) - 7.29
Most England fans now seem to be in agreement that James is Southgate’s most balanced right-back, being as reliable offensively as he is defensively. It is fair to say that the Chelsea man would get into a high proportion of fans’ teams for the World Cup. But given his experience and physical attributes, he could thrive in the RCB role as well.
Centre-back - Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur) - 6.94
Having been recalled to the international side for the first time in two years, this feels long overdue. Dier has looked solid and well-drilled in the heart of Antonio Conte’s three-man defence at Spurs. His inclusion gives the manager the option to deploy a back four or five, but for the best results from Dier he is best deployed in a back five.
Left centre-back - John Stones (Manchester City) - 6.70
Beyond scoring stunning strikes in the Champions League, Stones has looked assured when he has played for Pep Guardiola this term, either at centre-half or as right-back. More game time for his club will only bolster his chances.
Right wing-back - Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool) - 7.06
Despite his defensive vulnerabilities being in plain sight, the Reds defender’s attacking qualities are remarkable, his passing and crossing abilities are some of the best in the world. If he were to have enough cover in defence, he could play a role for England this winter.
Central midfielder - Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund) - 7.43
At this point, the whole country is besotted with the extraordinary skills this young man possesses. He may still be just 19, but he has maturity on the pitch beyond his years and was named Dortmund’s third captain this season. He is a Rolls Royce of a midfielder and he currently boasts the most duels won in the Bundesliga with 119. He simply has to start.
Central midfielder - James Ward-Prowse (Southampton) - 7.02
There is no shortage of set-piece specialists in this England side so far, but what harm will one more do? Ward-Prowse is arguably the best in the world from dead-ball situations and a secret weapon like that can go a long way in an international tournament.
Left wing-back - Kieran Trippier (Newcastle United) - 7.27
The versatile full-back has always been dependable when playing for England and boasts a talent for crossing and scoring free-kicks. The highlight of the season for him so far was his sublime set-piece goal against Manchester City in that gripping 3-3 draw, but he has also kept three clean sheets, boasting an 88% tackle success rate in the Premier League.
Right winger - Bukayo Saka (Arsenal) - 7.33
Saka has been a key component of the exciting front line that Arsenal are displaying this year. He has contributed one goal and four assists so far as the Gunners have won six from seven and shot to the top of the table. He is one of the most in-form Three Lions available right now.
Striker - Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur) - 7.69
It is hard to imagine an England game (at least a crucial one) in which the Spurs forward isn’t leading the line. He is a natural goalscorer who can deliver moments of magic in games seemingly devoid of any quality. He currently has six Premier League goals to his name in 2022-23.
Left winger - Phil Foden (Manchester City) - 7.29
Despite some people arguing that the talented youngster fails to have a striking impact for club or country, the stats disagree. In the league, Foden has been involved in four goals (two goals and two assists) but his all-round performances have been impressive too.