England duo Jadon Sancho and Tammy Abraham available ahead of Belgium clash
Jadon Sancho and Tammy Abraham are back available for England as Gareth Southgate looks to make it third time lucky against Belgium in Sunday’s Nations League clash.
Having last month opened Group A2 with a narrow win in Iceland and goalless draw against Denmark, the Three Lions will welcome the world’s top-ranked side to Wembley days after beating Wales 3-0 in a friendly.
Sancho, Abraham and Ben Chilwell were absent from Thursday’s thrashing after footage emerged of the trio breaking the Government’s ‘rule of six’ Covid-19 guidelines at a party last weekend.
It was yet another high-profile coronavirus breach for Southgate to contend with, having last month sent Mason Greenwood and Phil Foden home for breaching the strict bio bubble in Reykjavik.
The Three Lions boss omitted the duo from this squad as punishment, but Sancho and Abraham are back available on Sunday – although Chilwell remains absent with a non-coronavirus related illness.
“Tammy and Jadon both trained this morning, so everybody is available,” Southgate said. “Everybody trained this morning.
“They’ve obviously missed a bit of training, so that’s a bit of a concern in terms of their load through the week.
“But, no, it’s done. That situation is done. They’re back with the group and we move forward.”
Asked if Chilwell could return in Wednesday’s Nations League match against Denmark, Southgate added: “Ben will be tested today and we’ll have to wait for the results of that tomorrow and then we can make a decision from there medically on that.”
Given injured Raheem Sterling’s absence, the return of Sancho could be particularly useful against a star-studded Belgium side that have twice got the better of Southgate’s Three Lions.
Roberto Martinez’s Red Devils beat much-changed England 1-0 to top their group at the 2018 World Cup, where they went on to beat England 2-0 in the third-placed play-off in St Petersburg.
Marcus Rashford featured in both of those matches and heads into this game buoyed by the news he is being awarded an MBE for his efforts in securing free meals for vulnerable children during the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s an amazing achievement – wonderful for him and his family, the recognition,” Southgate said. “But he didn’t start this project to get the recognition.
“He started it because it was something he had been affected by, that he cared passionately about and for somebody of his age to be able to make the difference he has is a phenomenal achievement.
“We’re all very proud of him. We gave him a special round of applause this morning.
“You can only marvel at what he’s achieved and the difference he’s made to kids who will understand the difference he’s made but also who, at the moment, won’t understand but will be incredibly grateful for him in years to come.”
Southgate led the round of applause at Saturday’s tactical meeting ahead of England returning to a more-recognisable line-up following Thursday’s successful experiment.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Conor Coady and Danny Ings all scored their first England goals against Wales, but it was Jack Grealish that took home the man-of-the-match award.
The Aston Villa playmaker shone on his first start and Southgate knows he will be “hungry to back up the performance the other night”, which led the player to be asked about comparisons to Paul Gascoigne.
“I am very conscious that I don’t want to be dampening the enthusiasm for Jack,” Southgate said when asked about similarities to his former international team-mate.
“I always answer honestly about people but when you’re talking about Gascoigne, there’s not a player in English history that was at that level, in my opinion.
“I don’t want that to seem as a criticism of Jack.
“I just feel Gascoigne is so unique and was such an incredible player. It’s a bit like talking about Bobby Moore.
“I think what we have to say is that I think young players that come through, you shouldn’t burden them with tagging them and comparing them to somebody else. They’re unique. Their own talents are unique.
“I thought he handled that question really well the other day, very maturely.
“I kind of understood some of the comparison but I just think with Gascoigne as an individual, it was just on another level to anything I played with.”