Football Features

How should England line up against Germany? We asked four writers

By Muhammad Butt

England v Germany predicted lineups

Published: 10:00, 28 June 2021

The undoubted tie of the round of 16 at Euro 2020 is England vs. Germany at Wembley.

Portugal vs. Belgium may be the most star-studded affair but nothing can match the combination of football quality, football narrative and sheer potential for drama that we will see when England take on Germany on Tuesday evening.


England v Germany odds with William Hill

  • England to win 8/5
  • Germany to win 15/8
  • Match to go to penalties: 6/1

Odds correct at time of writing (10:00 on 28/06/21) 18+ only. Be Gamble Aware


So here’s a run-through of the players to look out for:

Germany’s most dangerous player… While Robin Gosens has been a sensational outlet on the left for Germany and Leon Goretzka has muscles on his muscles and could probably bench-press Declan Rice if they let him try, their dangerman is the architect of England’s destruction 10 years ago in Bloemfontein, Thomas Muller. The legendary raumdeuter lives for knockout football and punishing defensive mistakes.

England’s most dangerous player… Raheem Sterling’s scored England’s only two goals so far in the tournament so the logical answer would be him, but Jack Grealish’s ability to dribble at speed and make killer passes means he will share the accolade with the Brent Boy.

Germany’s weak link… The defence is undeniably terrible. Matthias Ginter is looking average as anything and Mats Hummels is a ghost of his best self. Antonio Rudiger is a dominant force right now, but he can’t do it all himself.

England’s weak link… Their midfield remains incapable of controlling the tempo of a game so even if England take the lead, you’d have little faith in them actually being able to retain it. Also Harry Kane’s undroppable status makes him an enormous problem when he’s playing as poorly as he is.

Germany predicted XI

Joachim Low is into the last few days of his career as Germany coach, which started back in 2006. He’s mostly opted to stick with the XI he picked prior to the tournament but has suggested he will make a couple of changes here.

First, Thomas Muller may come back into the side due to his history of devastating England and general proficiency in knockout ties.

Another big change may come in the middle, where the excellent Ilkay Gundogan might be dropped for the also excellent Leon Goretza. The German is almost twice the size of Gundogan and would add so much athleticism, energy and drive that Germany might be able to execute the 3-4-2-1 shape to a more Leipzig level of proficiency. Moreover, in the last two games Serge Gnabry has played in London, he’s scored six goals and his teams have won by a collective score of 10-2, so watch out for him.

How should England line up? We asked four writers:

With all the hype around the game, so many questions abound, including the big one: how should England line up? To answer such a massive conundrum we’ve drafted in some more writers to get multiple viewpoints.

“Match and break ’em”

Hungary showed the value of matching Germany’s formation and hitting them on the break with bold counter-attacking play, and it’s from that playbook that England should draw, because a side that has scored just twice all competition clearly needs help.

So, Southgate should return to the three-man defence from 2018 and even the same personnel, with Harry Maguire’s progressive passing key to the whole affair. Unlike then, there’s just two men in midfield; two bulwarks in Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice while Luke Shaw and Reece James patrol the flanks with special instructions to fling crosses in behind the German defence as much as possible.

In attack, Jack Grealish should be the creative fulcrum through whom every attack and counter flows. He’s a magician and England need only give him the stage and he will surely perform. Raheem Sterling leads the line as he’s proven himself the only guy capable of scoring. Bukayo Saka is the third forward for his versatility. He can begin the game effectively man-marking Joshua Kimmich or Robin Gosens (whichever is getting more joy) and, if Southgate wants, can move into the middle to help Phillips and Rice overload in there.

This is England’s best bet from the start, and then of course Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford should be introduced as a double-act some time around the hour mark. Either to turn the game in England’s favour or to help protect the lead by making their counter-attack fresher and sharper. This is how England win.

England XI vs Germany (3-4-2-1): Pickford; Walker, Stones, Maguire; James, Phillips, Rice, Shaw; Saka, Grealish; Sterling.

-Muhammad Butt, Chief writer

“If it ain’t broke (only fix it a little)”

Of all the possible teams England could have drawn from Group F bar Hungary, Germany are the ones they would most like to face based on their performances at Euro 2020, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy (or they’ll go through).

The best way for England to get the better of Germany is to mimic the Hungary way of playing, frustrating the attack with a defence that has been solid so far. The back five should read Jordan Pickford, Kyle Walker, John Stones, Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw, which appears to be Gareth Southgate’s first-choice back line, with Maguire tasked with helping to bring the ball up the pitch.

It’s not what people want to see, but this is exactly the kind of game Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips need to play to protect the back line and also turn the ball over when Germany look to attack. And that’s where the front four come in, with Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling ready to hit the opponent’s high line and weak defence. This is pretty much the standard England team apart from Harry Kane, who hasn’t been great (but we all know he’ll start anyway). Hungary did it, so why can’t England?

England XI vs Germany (4-2-3-1): Pickford; Walker, Stones, Maguire, Shaw; Rice, Phillips; Sancho, Grealish, Rashford; Sterling.

-Harry Edwards, Squawka writer

Tempo-setting trident”

So far, Gareth Southgate has taken the pragmatic, almost cautious approach, perhaps unnecessarily in some matches (we’re all looking at the Scotland game), but that is exactly the approach needed when facing a team of Germany’s world-class talent. Low’s squad resembles a who’s who of Ballon d’Or nominees so it would probably be wise for Southgate to err on the side of caution, which would mean staying true to the Declan Rice-Kalvin Phillips double-pivot. I would be tempted to deploy Jude Bellingham in the midfield trident just to get a bit of fluidity and rhythm into England’s passing game. With Rice and Phillips providing a buffer, he will have greater license to express himself, connect the dots and link play.

In defence, Harry Maguire and John Stones are the obvious centre-back choices, while at full-back Luke Shaw and Kyle Walker will provide a combination of attacking flair with defensive resilience. Raheem Sterling has scored 14 goals in his last 19 appearances for England, so he starts, while Jack Grealish takes up his left inside-forward role at Aston Villa, looking to metaphorically snap ankles, win fouls and provide Harry Kane with some semblance of support.

England XI vs Germany (4-2-3-1): Pickford; Walker, Maguire, Stones, Shaw; Rice, Phillips, Bellingham; Grealish, Sterling, Kane

-Ben Green, Squawka writer

“Unleash BVB duo!”

For what seems to be a first, the Three Lions go into a major tournament meeting with Germany as slight favourites. Gareth Southgate’s men haven’t exactly wowed audiences with their brand of football at Euro 2020, but they weren’t exactly troubled by those opposing them save the Scotland game. And even that draw could be put down to an emotional derby where form goes right out of the window. At these championships, Southgate has exclusively played 4-2-3-1 and it doesn’t seem like he will be moving away from that formation, even if this is England’s biggest test so far this summer.

The make-up of Southgate’s double pivot will be critical. Playing two ‘defensive midfielders’ came under intense scrutiny following the draw with Steve Clarke’s men. But Germany are certain to be strong in the middle of the park, so it might be wise to have either Kalvin Phillips or Declan Rice next to Jude Bellingham. His ability to get the ball forward could pay dividends. Or at the very least have them playing positively on the front-foot. Further afield, I’d play Jadon Sancho, Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling behind Harry Kane with England’s back-line as the one that started against Czech Republic.

England XI vs Germany (4-2-3-1): Pickford; Walker, Stones, Maguire, Shaw; Bellingham, Phillips; Sancho, Foden, Sterling; Kane.

-Mohamed Moallim, Squawka writer