Should Gareth Southgate ring the changes for England’s final World Cup group game against Belgium?
England have already secured their place in the last 16 with back-to-back wins and would secure top spot in Group G with a victory on Thursday night.
However, with the prospect of second place potentially securing a more favourable route to the final, we asked the Soccer Saturday pundits whether they thought Southgate should rotate his side against Belgium…
Paul Merson: Madness not to make 11 changes
“I can’t believe he isn’t going to rest every player. They’ve had a game in the boiling heat on Sunday and Belgium will rest players as well. Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard won’t play.
“I just think we are playing a dangerous game if we play our best team and get beat because it knocks our confidence, whereas if we make 11 changes then losing won’t have the same impact. If they win the game then great and if we don’t then we go the other way in the draw.
“Let’s be honest, nobody wants to go the Brazil way and you don’t get any medals for winning all of your [group] games. Also, Southgate has been to a World Cup and didn’t play a minute so he shouldn’t want to do that to any other player.”
Phil Thompson: No more than four changes
“I wouldn’t make too many changes, perhaps Eric Dier for Jordan Henderson, Danny Rose for Ashley Young and Trent Alexander-Arnold for Kieran Trippier. However, I wouldn’t touch the back three because the understanding there is so important.
“Trippier seems to be carrying a bit of a thigh problem so it would be a really good game to bring Trent in. I thought he might have done that when he took Trippier off against Panama, so I thought that was defeating the object in terms of gaining experience. Trent knows the Belgium team so I’m confident he would do well.
“I’d say three changes, four maximum. The big question is Harry Kane. Do you rest him? He’ll be looking at the Golden Boot, which is such a prestigious achievement, so going head to head with Romelu Lukaku adds to that incentive to play.
“The bookings do come into it and I thought Southgate might have taken Ruben Loftus-Cheek off but he trusted him to manage his game and that says a lot.”
Matt Le Tissier: Southgate must trust his instincts
“There might be a case for resting a few and I think if all of our best players played and picked up a few injuries he would get slaughtered; although that is wrong because they can also get injured in training.
“Gareth is in the hot seat and whatever he does will be what he believes is right. I think he’s cool and calculated enough to go with his gut instinct rather than worry about how it could be perceived in the media.
“I would probably rest a few if I was honest and give minutes to players we have to rely on in the later stages. I’d definitely rest Kane, even though I’d know he’d want to play because of the Golden Boot situation, but I’d like to see Marcus Rashford start the game. I think he could be a key player come the knockout stages.”
Charlie Nicholas: England can show they mean business
“It does not matter if Belgium make changes, it would show England mean business if they won this game. They are in the frame with six or seven other teams and if I was England I would want to get this game won and prove they are serious contenders.
“Therefore I would only make a couple of changes. My personal agenda would be Kane starts and you can take him off after 65 minutes.
“Dele Alli missed the last game so he can come in. Jordan Henderson for Eric Dier would be the other change I would expect. I would change the goalkeeper and give one of the other lads a chance, but I wouldn’t want to disrupt the momentum too much.”