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Premier League should revisit five substitutes option, says Southgate

Gareth Southgate wants a rethink on the Premier League’s limit of three substitutions per side per match as he fears players could suffer serious injury in the hectic fixture schedule caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The England manager, who is also unhappy at the lack of a winter break this season, has followed Jürgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola in questioning why the league has not sanctioned the use of up to five substitutes.

The Liverpool and Manchester City managers, and some other clubs in the division, wanted the rule to be implemented this season – in line with other European competitions – only to be outvoted twice at Premier League meetings. The so-called smaller clubs think it would put them at a competitive disadvantage.

Southgate has had his squads undermined by injury this season, as well as by Covid-related issues, and he is worried about the impact on his selection for the European Championship finals next June. His latest problems came during Sunday’s 2-0 defeat in Belgium, where Ben Chilwell and Jordan Henderson were forced off with minor knocks. Henderson has now left the squad as has Raheem Sterling, who has a calf injury. Chilwell has stayed on.

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Bayern’s Musiala scores on debut for England U21

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Jamal Musiala scored on his full England Under-21s debut in a 5-0 win over Albania.

The Bayern Munich midfielder announced himself with a goal on an impressive night at Molineux. Eddie Nketiah netted a second-half double and also missed a late penalty after Callum Hudson-Odoi and James Justin had put England in charge.

The Young Lions finish their Euro 2021 campaign unbeaten and top of Group Three, winning nine and drawing one. They now await next month’s group stage draw ahead of the first part of the tournament in March with the knockout phase held in May and June. 

Seventeen-year-old Musiala, who can also play for Germany, has given Boothroyd a selection headache after just two Under-21 appearances for England.

“He gives me a nice problem going into March,” said Boothroyd. “I thought Jamal was excellent. You can see that physically he’s not finished. He’s going to be a brute of a man. His brain and his feet are the most impressive, he’s razor-sharp. We’re really pleased with him to step up the way he has done.” PA Media

Photograph: Matt West/Rex Features

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“We were able to make five changes against Belgium – we made four in the end – and clubs don’t have that option,” the manager said. “What will it take for that to change? There were a couple of less serious injuries against Belgium but what do we do? Wait until we get a load of really nasty ones?”

Southgate renewed his call for a collaborative approach between international managers and their club counterparts with regard to player welfare. “I have to be fair to the club managers,” he said. “They are their players firstly, and they have the right to play them as they see fit. What we have got to do as a collective is to try to help the load.

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“We could not have prepared physically any better than we did last week. We have given players extra days’ recovery. We have tapered the training appropriately and we have still ended up with a couple of injuries. So that is a worry in the longer term because with no winter break … something has to give.”

The manager has become aware of extreme scrutiny of his selections given the two international breaks have featured triple bills of fixtures. He faces a decision over Jack Grealish for Wednesday’s Nations League tie against Iceland at Wembley; the Aston Villa man produced fine performances in his starts against the Republic of Ireland and then Belgium.

“If he reports fine then of course we would like to give him the opportunity to keep going,” Southgate said. “But like all the players, we have got to assess him physically. Although his club haven’t had the sort of schedule that other clubs have had, we have still got to make sure we are not taking any chances.”

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