sport news Let's get the batting order right! England boss Gareth Southgate won't let ...

sonos sonos One (Gen 2) - Voice Controlled Smart Speaker with Amazon Alexa Built-in - Black read more

() Gareth Southgate chose to use a cricket analogy at Wembley on Friday night as he prepared to begin England's run-up to next summer's European Championship.

Such is the weakness of qualifying groups for big tournaments these days - and such has been the improvement in the national team under this manager - that England are a certainty to qualify for a Euro 2020 tournament in which they would play largely on home soil.

So the only issue for Southgate is how to keep an improving squad on the boil between now and June. One way is old-fashioned and involves the mysteries of selection.

Harry Kane and Co must deliver to get selected, according to England boss Gareth Southgate

Harry Kane and Co must deliver to get selected, according to England boss Gareth Southgate

The England manager revealed he changes his desired team after every Premier League round

The England manager revealed he changes his desired team after every Premier League round

'Every Monday after the weekend's Premier League games, we sit down and move the names around,' Southgate said. 'We have a batting order of who we think are our best players, but to be honest we don't have too many guarantees. We have a lot of really close calls.'

There are two schools of thought about how best to prepare for a summer tournament, especially one for which you know you will qualify. 

Do you try to settle your players down into a regular starting line-up in the hope that it gels in advance of the serious stuff? Or do you keep alive the competition for places and hope that professional pride elevates the performances of not only the younger players but senior ones, too?

Michael Keane (R) is set to start Saturday's game against Bulgaria alongside Harry Maguire

Michael Keane (R) is set to start Saturday's game against Bulgaria alongside Harry Maguire

Southgate (R) is comfortable rotating his side depending on players' form for their clubs

Southgate (R) is comfortable rotating his side depending on players' form for their clubs

MARTIN KEOWN'S BIG MATCH ANALYSIS AHEAD OF BULGARIA

DEBUTANTS MUST REMEMBER THEIR JOBS  

I made my England debut in a 2-0 win over France at Wembley in February 1992, and I wasn't the only one. Other debutants included Rob Jones, who was 20, and Alan Shearer, who was 21. I was 25! 

On Saturday night, we could see Mason Mount (20), James Maddison (22) and Tyrone Mings (26) handed their first caps too. It is a great process. The rumours that you're on the radar, the reports in the media, the confirmation with the letter in the post. 

Mount, Maddison and Mings must enjoy the occasion, but also realise they are there to do a job. Don't be overcome with emotion. I think it's a good thing that they could be getting their debuts in a proper game rather than a friendly. 

This is no testimonial or trial. You have to play your part.

CENTRAL DEFENCE CAN STILL STAKE A CLAIM 

Gareth Southgate has had the opportunity to work with some outstanding central defenders as England manager. 

We've seen Harry Maguire, Joe Gomez, Michael Keane, John Stones, Lewis Dunk, James Tarkowski and more used in that position. There's a lot of competition and that is a door Southgate has kept open. It is up to those on the pitch against Bulgaria and Kosovo to try to shut it. Maguire has a presence about him. He is a man mountain. 

While Liverpool's Joe Gomez is more mobile, Michael Keane looks set to start alongside Maguire instead. The hosts should

read more from dailymail.....

Get the latest news delivered to your inbox

Follow us on social media networks

NEXT Johnson sets himself for Presidents Cup mogaznewsen