England v Ukraine: Gareth Southgate sticking with original squad despite defensive absences

Gareth Southgate overseeing England training
Thursday’s win in Italy was Southgate’s 50th victory as England manager
Venue: Wembley Date: Sunday, 26 March Kick-off: 17:00 BST
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Sport website & app; live text commentary on BBC Sport website & app

Gareth Southgate will not call up new players for England’s Euro 2024 qualifier against Ukraine on Sunday.

There had been concerns over the fitness of Jordan Henderson, Jude Bellingham and Kalvin Phillips but Southgate says all three are available.

“We have just about enough to get through this game,” said Southgate.

The 52-year-old, whose team won 2-1 in Italy on Thursday in their opening qualifier, added: “We have been training with this group all week – to call somebody from the outside would be potentially quite complicated.

“We would have no idea where they might be and what their training load has been over the last couple of days.

“If we were going to do that at this point we would do that with the under-21s.”

England’s last meeting with Ukraine was a 4-0 win in the quarter finals of Euro 2020, with the Three Lions going on to reach the final before losing to Italy.

Sunday’s game at Wembley is England’s first home match since reaching the quarter-finals of the World Cup last year in Qatar, while Ukraine are unable to play their qualifying matches in their own country due to the ongoing invasion by Russia.

“They are very proud,” said Southgate. “We saw that at the beginning of the war when they went to Scotland at the beginning in the [World Cup] play-offs and Wales.

“They are a very proud group of players, you can see that they are totally committed to bringing enjoyment to their public.

“We of course have huge sympathy with what is going on, tomorrow is a game of football and we are fully focused on the game.”

No friends on the pitch – Zinchenko

Arsenal defender Oleksandr Zinchenko will come up against team-mate Bukayo Saka, as well as his former colleagues from Manchester City, on Sunday night.

The 26-year-old says he will always be grateful for the support shown by his team-mates and the whole of the UK during a “nightmare” year for his country.

“I love them all so much, but unfortunately on the pitch there are no friends, so let’s see what is going to happen tomorrow,” said Zinchenko, who joined Arsenal from City last summer.

“Bukayo has not given me the line-up yet, but I am going to push as much as I can.”

He added: “I got a lot of support from all of them [team-mates], for which I am so grateful.

“I would like to also say a massive thanks to all of the UK for all of the help and support for all of us Ukrainians, for the country, our people, all of the refugees who are living here.

“It is so important for us. Without your support, it would be so difficult and tough. We really appreciate it.”


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