Raheem Sterling to be handed shock England start for Euro 2020 opener

Raheem Sterling set to be handed shock start by England manager Gareth Southgate for Euro 2020 opener with Croatia… with two of Marcus Rashford, Phil Foden and Jack Grealish to miss out

  • Raheem Sterling is set to start England’s Euro 2020 opener against Croatia 
  • The experienced Manchester City winger has had a mixed season for his club 
  • It could see two of Marcus Rashford, Jack Grealish and Phil Foden benched
  • Sterling and team-mate Jordan Henderson were awarded MBEs on Friday 

Gareth Southgate is set to unleash an array of attacking talent against Croatia on Sunday with Raheem Sterling winning his race to start the European Championship opener. 

Sterling was awarded an MBE on Friday night in the Queen’s Birthday honours for services to racial equality. ‘It’s a proud moment – not just for myself but for my family,’ he said. England team-mate Jordan Henderson won an MBE too, for services to charity.

And Sterling is expected to start at Wembley, with Southgate throwing caution to the wind in his bid to get  off to a winning start. Doubt had surrounded whether he would be in the XI. 

Raheem Sterling is set to be given a start by Gareth Southgate in England’s Euro 2020 opener

Southgate (right)  is set to stick with Sterling (left) despite a mixed season at Manchester City

The Manchester City forward has been one of Southgate’s untouchables in recent years, but Sterling has lost his place in Pep Guardiola’s side. Southgate, though, is leaning towards keeping faith in Sterling.

Having experimented with a back three in training, he is also giving serious consideration to sticking with the four-man defence he used during the warm-up wins over Austria and Romania.

A back four would allow Southgate to field an extra attacking player. And with Harry Kane, Mason Mount and Sterling expected to start, two of Marcus Rashford, Phil Foden and Jack Grealish would miss out.

The move could see one of Jack Grealish (right) and Phil Foden (left) miss out on starting spot

Marcus Rashford (right) is another player who could miss out due to Sterling’s (left) inclusion

There is a feeling in the camp Grealish will begin on the bench, despite being arguably England’s best player in the pre-tournament friendlies. Rashford remains a favourite of Southgate but is carrying niggling injuries, while Foden, 21, has just six caps and no major tournament experience.

John Stones should play at centre back and Tyrone Mings is hopeful of joining the City man in the heart of England’s defence.

Southgate said on Friday that first-choice central defender Harry Maguire was ahead of schedule in his recovery from an ankle injury, explaining: ‘He is progressing really well. It is still a long shot (for Croatia) but we are checking in daily and he is further ahead than he thought he might be. We are not going to rule it out.’

Sterling (right) and Jordan Henderson (left) were handed MBEs in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list

However, sources said on Friday it would take a ‘miracle’ for Maguire to start against Croatia as he recovers from the ligament damage he suffered on May 9.

England are also set to be without midfielder Henderson from the start as he recovers from a long-term groin injury.

Southgate’s plans could change after today’s final training session, but assistant Steve Holland said: ‘We are 75 to 80 per cent there going back a reasonable period of time, although you do have to go off your eyes. Seeing how players present on a day-to-day basis is influential. We don’t ignore what we see in the training sessions.

‘So although we were fairly clear right up until the end of the week, you keep an open mind. In the end you hope you make the right choices, but we’re very clear on the direction of travel for Sunday.’

Joining Sterling and Henderson on the Honours List is former England manager Roy Hodgson, 73, who is awarded a CBE. 

Hodgson led his country at Euro 2012, the 2014 World Cup and Euro 2016 and enjoyed a successful career in club management at home and abroad.

Presenter Sue Barker has been awarded a CBE for services to sport, broadcasting and charity. 

Rugby league star Kevin Sinfield is honoured with an OBE for his work raising awareness of motor neurone disease.

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