Gareth Southgate faces conducting the bulk of England’s preparations for June’s Nations League finals without up to nine players after Liverpool and Tottenham secured unlikely passage to the Champions League final.
The national manager will have to wait until the evening of Sunday 2 June to welcome to St George’s Park the hefty contingent involved in the showpiece at Atlético Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano. That will be almost two weeks after the first members of the squad gather, with arrivals staggered according to when players’ club campaigns finish.
Those involved in Madrid would not be available to train with their international teammates until the following day at the very earliest, subject to assessments being made by medical and technical staff.
Southgate, who names his squad for the two-game tournament in Portugal next Thursday, has expressed concerns over how players involved in an emotionally and physically draining Champions League final would be able to cope with England’s semi-final against the Netherlands five days later in Guimarães.
The cluttered schedule will deny Southgate Jordan Henderson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, Kieran Trippier, Danny Rose, Eric Dier and Dele Alli in the buildup to the finals in Portugal. The Spurs duo Harry Kane and Harry Winks, who are recovering from ankle ligament and groin injuries respectively, hope to be available for the final against Liverpool and, as a result, will also be in contention to join up with the national squad. “Rehab is going well,” said Kane. “I started straight-line running this week and I have to start training even harder to prove myself to the gaffer.”
Southgate expects players whose seasons end this weekend with the culmination of the Premier League to link up at the national training centre in the week commencing 20 May. The contingent from Manchester City would be granted time after the FA Cup final, and those involved in European finals – Arsenal and Chelsea will attempt on Thursday night to secure places in the Europa League final – last to join the group. The Europa League final is in Baku on 29 May.
Although the national manager will welcome English clubs’ progress into the latter stages of Europe’s elite competition, the disruption to his preparations has realised his worst fears. “Let’s say if two of our teams made it to the Champions League final, then we wouldn’t see them [in training] at best until the Monday before we play on the Thursday,” he said in March. “We’ve been in [this] semi-final, qualified six months ago and [are thinking] what a great opportunity to win something, and then you don’t actually get the team together. And with the emotion of that game [Champions League final], can those players even realistically play on the Thursday night for us.
“We’ll have to work out all of that as that goes on. But, fundamentally, our preparation will be here [in England], broken up with breaks at home to give them space that they would all need, bar the players that will play to the very end.”