England v Ivory Coast: Gareth Southgate to make changes while John Stones ruled out

Gareth Southgate (centre) watches England training
Venue: Wembley Stadium Date: Tuesday, 29 March Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Coverage: Live BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Sport website & app, plus live text commentary online.

Manchester City defender John Stones will miss England’s friendly with Ivory Coast after returning to his club.

The 27-year-old suffered an injury in the warm-up for Saturday’s 2-1 win against Switzerland, which meant he had to withdraw from the starting XI.

England boss Gareth Southgate is expected to make wholesale changes for Tuesday’s game at Wembley.

Saturday’s team mixed established and inexperienced players, with Tuesday’s expected to follow a similar template.

“We’ll make changes. We think that’s the right thing to do,” said Southgate.

“We want to keep all of the squad involved. I think that has been a strength for us. Players who come in perform well at the level and the team march on.

“They need to feel that we’ve got the confidence in them to go into any game and we’re also at a stage of the season where their load is heavy and we’ve got to make sure we try and navigate that in the best way possible.”

‘It is about the weight of the England shirt and how they cope’

All 24 players took part in training on Monday, including Arsenal’s Emile Smith Rowe, who missed Saturday’s game through injury, and Stones, who was replaced in the starting XI by Ben White after experiencing “some tightness”.

After Monday’s session he returned to his club as a precaution but Southgate confirmed that Harry Maguire will start at Wembley on Tuesday.

Stones is the seventh player to withdraw from Southgate’s squad, with the others including Arsenal pair Aaron Ramsdale and Bukayo Saka, as well as Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold.

The team for Saturday’s hard-fought win over the Swiss included debutants Marc Guehi, Kyle Walker-Peters and Tyrick Mitchell.

Their inclusion took England boss Southgate to the milestone of having used 100 players during his tenure, which began in 2016 and comprises 69 matches.

The proposed changes for Tuesday opens the door to the likes of Aston Villa pair Tyrone Mings and Oli Watkins, Southampton duo Fraser Forster and James Ward-Prowse, and Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham.

Forster – a late call-up in place of Ramsdale – could make his first England appearance since 2016.

There could also be a first start for Crystal Palace full-back Mitchell, who came off the bench for the final 30 minutes at the weekend.

“Whenever we bring players into the squad, it is great to see how they cope,” said Southgate.

“Sometimes, it isn’t about the opposition quality, although [against Switzerland] that was high. Sometimes, it is about the weight of an England shirt and whether they can cope.

“I thought all of the players who came in did really well. That was positive.

“I hope we have an environment where all the players feel comfortable and can be the best version of themselves in. A lot of that is down to the environment they have created.

“We have super characters; when younger players come in, the older ones are sitting with them at meal times, helping them feel relaxed and at ease.

“In terms of selection, we have players who have performed for England. There has to be some scrutiny on club form, because that has to be a factor, and then the opponent and who is suited to playing them.”

Harry Kane scores a penalty against Switzerland

‘Kane sets the tone’

Harry Kane scored England’s winner on Saturday from the penalty spot, taking his tally of international goals to 49 in 68 caps.

It takes him level with Sir Bobby Charlton as the second highest goalscorer in Three Lions history, four goals behind leading scorer Wayne Rooney.

Southgate hinted that Kane could be omitted from the starting XI for the game on Tuesday, but praised the 28-year-old Tottenham striker for the example he sets with his attitude.

“If he had his way, he’d play all the time,” added Southgate. “That is a brilliant quality to have.

“If your captain wants to be at every camp, playing every game, that sets the tone.

“We’ve got a good squad; we want to give people opportunities and to see things across the week to see if people can play at the level.

“We make the decision as to when he plays or doesn’t, but I repeat, it is a good quality to have.”

Ivory Coast go into their first ever game against England having narrowly lost 2-1 to world champions France, courtesy of an injury-time Aurelien Tchouameni goal on Friday.

Les Elephants suffered an early exit in the recent Africa Cup of Nations, failed to qualify for the World Cup finals in Qatar and have recorded just one win in their last five friendlies.

However, their squad includes a number of players with Premier League experience including Crystal Palace forward Wilfred Zaha, Arsenal’s Nicolas Pepe and Maxwel Cornet of Burnley.

Wolves’ Willy Boly and Manchester United’s Eric Bailly are likely to feature in defence, along with ex-Tottenham full-back Serge Aurier.

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