Football Features

How should England line up vs Scotland? We asked five writers

By Squawka News

Published: 15:45, 15 June 2021

The battle of Britain is about to begin. On Friday, England will take on Scotland at Wembley in a Group D clash at Euro 2020.

England won their opening game 1-0 against Croatia while Scotland got Schicked by the Czech Republic 0-2 at Hampden. This makes the encounter quite epic as Scotland know they need to win to really keep their hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages alive.

How can England set up to counter what is sure to be a furious response to defeat from Scotland? We’ve asked five of our writers to give their opinion and predicted XIs for Friday night’s big match.

“Fluid and Fearsome”

England will know that Scotland are no joke despite suffering defeat to the Czech Republic on matchday one. They will also know that, deep down, they weren’t all that impressive against Croatia either. Things need to change and they start with actually playing a left-back at left-back. The rest of the defence can stay the same but Shaw will provide true width on the left.

In midfield, there’s no Luka Modric to worry about so you don’t need the additional shielding of Declan Rice. Kalvin Phillips moves to pivot, Mount pulls a tad deeper and Jack Grealish comes in to play attacking midfield. Captain Jack is the most luxuriously brilliant playmaker England have and Scotland would either get ripped to bits by his runs and passes or need to dedicate two men to mark him out of the game.

In attack, the #BrentBoy Raheem Sterling has to keep his spot, as does Phil Foden. Both were good against Croatia, unlike Harry Kane who was sluggish and off the pace. Take Kane out and bring Marcus Rashford in to play as part of a fluid front three with all the forwards playing all the positions as they are all more than capable of doing.

With this shape, England’s movement would prove too much for Scotland’s centre-backs to handle (particularly if they persist with a back three with a less-than-fully-fit Kieran Tierney) and in Rashford and Foden, you have two of the most “clutch” attackers in the England squad, players you’d trust to bury any chances created by that midfield, and win any game.

England XI vs Scotland (4-3-3): Pickford; Walker, Stones, Mings, Shaw; Phillips, Mount, Grealish; Foden, Sterling, Rashford.

Muhammad Butt, Chief writer

“The Lock Picker”

With Scotland likely to line up with three at the back, England will need something special to break them down, to pick the lock of the defence as it were. Jack Grealish and Jadon Sancho are arguably England’s best options for this, both excellent dribblers with a knack for drawing fouls. If they cannot get through the tight Scotland defence, which will move to a back five at times, they can at least win a free-kick in a dangerous position for Set Piece FC to thrive. Only injury will prevent Harry Kane from starting, even though his showing against Croatia was subpar, but his dropping deep might work with the right runners.

Mason Mount can either join in the attack or drop back to play alongside Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips, with the latter excellent against Croatia. Then in defence, the goalkeeper and centre-backs won’t change, but Scotland would be a good opposition for Luke Shaw and Reece James. Although Kieran Trippier did his job against Croatia, England will need full-backs who can quickly whip balls into the box on the occasions that Scotland are caught out. James also has an excellent delivery from set pieces that will help.

England XI vs Scotland (4-2-3-1): Pickford; James, Stones, Mings, Shaw; Phillips, Rice; Sancho, Mount, Grealish; Kane.

Harry Edwards, Squawka writer

“Southgate’s mezzala madness”

Eyebrows were raised ahead of the Croatia game as a right-back was selected ahead of two in-form left-backs at left-back, Jack Grealish was omitted for two ‘defensive midfielders’, and Jadon Sancho was nowhere to be seen, not even on the bench. But, what do we know? In the end, Gareth Southgate masterminded a first-ever curtain-raising win at a European Championship.

There was a professionalism about the way England went about their business, nullifying the midfield threats of Croatia’s luxurious trident (Modric-Kovacic-Brozovic), while keeping a lid on Ante Rebic and Ivan Perisic. It wasn’t vintage England, but then again, what is vintage England? This was a pragmatic approach that tapped into the strengths of the squad and hid the blemishes.

In an adrenaline-fuelled match against Scotland, where emotions will be high and passions cut loose on the terraces, Southgate will need an approach capable of tempering the occasion, and players who will not falter in the heat of the moment. The Croatia approach offered that balance: Declan Rice the firefighter, Kieran Trippier channeling his inner Diego Simeone, and the Kalvin Phillips-Mason Mount mezzala link-up excelling.

The aesthete will wince at the stacked creative talent on the bench, but Southgate’s job isn’t to produce liquid football and appease the idealist. His job is to win games, and he found the winning formula against Croatia. I would say stick rather than twist. It wasn’t pretty at times, but without England’s star defender (Harry Maguire), there was a solidity and assurance about the way they executed Southgate’s gameplan.

England XI vs Scotland (4-3-3): Pickford; Walker, Stones, Mings, Trippier; Rice, Phillips, Mount; Foden, Sterling, Kane.

Ben Green, Squawka writer

“Drie Leeuwen”

Who’d be an international manager? Heading into their opening game against Croatia so much was being discussed about England’s tactics and lineup but in the end, Gareth Southgate was vindicated. However, as good as Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips were in a double pivot let’s switch things up and see how the Three Lions would fare in a Dutch-esque 4-3-3 which includes two deep-lying forwards (Mason Mount and Phil Foden) supporting Harry Kane who is then flanked by wingers in the guise of Raheem Sterling (the man with the momentum) and Jack Grealish.

As for the back-five, no major changes aside from introducing Luke Shaw at left-back, who finished last season on a strong note. He and Grealish could forge a partnership akin to the one Shaw briefly enjoyed with Memphis Depay at Manchester United.

Phillips, who stole the headlines against Croatia, earns another runout and is surely among the first names on Southgate’s team sheet. Transformed under Marcelo Bielsa he’s capable of screening England’s defence whilst effectively retaining and recycling possession. Mount and Foden are both capable of putting in a defensive shift as we’ve seen at club level but seeing them pulling the strings behind Kane could be a sneak peak into England’s immediate future.

England XI vs Scotland (4-3-3): Pickford; Walker, Stones, Mings, Shaw; Phillips, Mount, Foden; Sterling, Kane, Grealish.

Mohamed Moallim, Squawka writer


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“Playmaker panache”

With Scotland not possessing a truly dominant midfielder like Luka Modric or Marcelo Brozovic, Southgate can afford to remove some of that protection in front of his back four. Kalvin Phillips’ man-of-the-match performance against Croatia means Declan Rice moves to the bench to facilitate Jack Grealish into the starting XI.

With Phillips screening, Mason Mount and Phil Foden can act as “free eights”, pushing forward in support of Harry Kane and providing the incisive passing needed to crack open what is sure to be a tightly-packed Scottish defence. Grealish will cut in from the left to combine with Foden, Mount and Kane, while drawing fouls in dangerous areas to tee up free-kicks for Kieran Trippier, who should line up in an unchanged defence (if it’s not broke, don’t fix it).

Moving the pace of Raheem Sterling out to the right flank will mean Andy Robertson is shackled and unable to get forward as much as he’d like, regardless of whether or not Kieran Tierney is fit to return for Steve Clarke. Should England’s army of playmakers fail to pick the lock, further pace can be introduced in the form of Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho.

England XI vs Scotland (4-3-3): Pickford; Walker, Stones, Mings, Trippier; Phillips, Mount, Foden; Sterling, Kane, Grealish.

Chris Smith, Squawka writer