Gareth Southgate facing ‘complicated’ decision on Man City stars for Malta game

By Sports Desk June 15, 2023

Gareth Southgate confirmed Manchester City’s quintet are available to face Malta, but the England boss is wary about the emotional impact of completing the treble and subsequent revelry.

Pep Guardiola’s men became the second team in English football history to complete the treble by beating Inter Milan in the Champions League final in Istanbul on Saturday.

City partied long into the night in Turkey and only halted their celebrations after Monday’s rain-soaked parade back in Manchester, with worse-for-wear Jack Grealish at the heart of things.

The playmaker reported for England duty at St George’s Park on Tuesday evening along with team-mates Phil Foden, Kyle Walker, John Stones and Kalvin Phillips.

They travelled to Malta for Friday’s Euro 2024 qualifier, but the emotional – and for some hedonistic – build-up raises questions over their availability.

“The first thing is they’re not on summer holiday,” Southgate said of the squad. “They’re all available, so everybody’s fit. We’ve obviously got a lot of considerations, particularly the boys that arrived later.

“They’ve not done the majority of the week’s training and coming off the back of massive emotional high.

“It’s always complicated, the decisions you have to make. This is never a straightforward week when you’re talking about international football.

“But the team have trained really well, the players that have been with us all week, especially, the focus has been excellent and we’re looking forward to the game now.”

On the City quintet, Southgate said: “I spoke with them when they arrived, firstly to say what an incredible achievement (it is) and huge congratulations to the whole club and to Pep. He’s done an incredible job to keep the team at the level he has for the whole season. It’s an amazing achievement.

“But we’re actually heading into the unknown here because there’s no way of knowing individually how they’re all going to react and respond to what they’ve been through.

“Huge emotion, celebration, need to get back into training, back in with the group, so we’re just going to have to take that bit by bit and see how they all are.

“They’re all available but I’ve got to decide whether that’s a good decision. We’ve also got strength in depth in a lot of those positions as well.”

Southgate’s pride at his players’ success with City was clear, but he kept his cards close to his chest when asked for his thoughts about the partying.

“I’m always monitoring everything the players do wherever they are, at whatever stage of the season,” he said. “We’re used to dealing with this Champions League scenario.

“It was probably even more complicated for us when Tottenham played Liverpool (in 2019) because we were then into the semi-final of the Nations League about three days later.

“We’ve had several difficult situations with that, but we know how to deal with it.

“We’re used to dealing with it, we know our players inside out and our focus is on the team now.

“I’ve said to the players, I now have to push them. They might not want to be pushed at this stage, that’s also individually we’ll find out where they are as we go through the week.

“But that’s my job. I’ve got to push the players now to get the results we need and, as we said to the wider group at the start, the responsibility lies with them.

“Initially this part of the week they’ve got to drive the team and get the performance we want.”

Southgate’s press conference at the Ta’ Qali National Stadium was delayed due to technical difficulties upon arriving in Malta, with his 24-man squad forced to wait on the tarmac.

Eberechi Eze is among the travelling side and hoping to make his debut on Friday, as is England Under-21s international Levi Colwill, who joined the group after initially being brought into train with them this week.

The pair are among those that have had to pause their post-season break at the end of a mammoth season for international duty, but Kieran Trippier says the team are fully focused.

“It was important obviously that the lads had a break,” the Newcastle right-back said. “Coming into the England set-up, it’s always a proud moment for all of us to get going again.

“When you say it’s been a long season, but for us players there’s nothing better… (we’re) proud to represent our country.

“We know what the goal is, to try and reach a Euros and we’ve had a good week training to prepare for this game.

“The lads are playing really well. We know it’s going to be a challenge tomorrow, but it’s one I’m ready for.”

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