Gareth Southgate is dealing with significant worries over the fitness of five crucial England players just days before their first match in Euro 2024. The Three Lions begin their tournament journey on Sunday, shortly after a disappointing 1-0 friendly loss to Iceland at Wembley.

England’s fitness issues for key players

Southgate's squad selection for the Euros raised eyebrows. He opted for a younger and less experienced group, excluding big names like Jack Grealish, James Maddison, and Harry Maguire. This decision might force him to rely on newcomers like Anthony Gordon, Cole Palmer, and Eberechi Eze sooner than expected.

According to The Telegraph, five key players—Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden, Bukayo Saka, John Stones, and Luke Shaw—face fitness checks ahead of the game against Serbia. These players are essential to Southgate's starting lineup, and their potential absence would be a significant blow as England looks to start the tournament strongly.

Jude Bellingham, who led Real Madrid to Champions League success earlier this month, missed the recent friendlies against Iceland and Bosnia & Herzegovina. Phil Foden did not perform at his usual high level during the Iceland match despite playing the entire 90 minutes. Bukayo Saka only managed 30 minutes from the bench, having been sidelined for the past month due to injury. John Stones was substituted at half-time after sustaining an ankle injury, and Luke Shaw, who has played sparingly for Manchester United this season, was absent entirely.

As a result, Kieran Trippier is expected to start at left-back against Serbia. Southgate will face a tough selection dilemma if the other four players can also not play. In defense, Lewis Dunk, Ezri Konsa, and Joe Gomez compete for a spot alongside Marc Guehi at center-back. Chelsea's Cole Palmer is the likely candidate to replace Bellingham as the attacking midfielder. On the wings, Anthony Gordon and Eberechi Eze have been impressive recently and could be in line for starts, with Jarrod Bowen stepping in for Saka on the right side.

Selection dilemmas and tactical adjustments

Trent Alexander-Arnold is expected to partner with Declan Rice in the midfield. This decision highlights a significant shift for Alexander-Arnold, who has gone from being on the fringes of the squad to a central figure. This change indicates Southgate's confidence in his abilities and the strategic flexibility he offers.

A source told The Telegraph, “A lot can change, obviously, but Trent was given the No8 shirt for a reason.” This statement suggests that Alexander-Arnold is now seen as a key player in Southgate’s plans for the tournament.

Despite the challenges, including new and young players, could bring fresh energy and surprise elements to England's game. Anthony Gordon, known for his pace and agility, can add dynamism to the left flank, while Eberechi Eze’s creativity and technical skills could prove vital in breaking down defenses. With his vision and passing accuracy, Cole Palmer might effectively fill the creative void left by Bellingham.

Forwards like Jarrod Bowen can exploit his speed and finishing abilities to pose a constant threat on the right side. Meanwhile, Marc Guehi's defensive pairing of Dunk, Konsa, or Gomez needs to be solid to ensure a strong backline, especially against a competitive team like Serbia.

As the Euro 2024 opener against Serbia approaches, England fans will closely watch how Southgate handles these injury concerns. The match will be a crucial test for the Three Lions as they aim to make a strong start in the tournament and overcome the challenges their injury-stricken squad poses. With a mix of young talent and experienced players, England hopes to navigate these difficulties and perform well on the European stage.

Southgate's ability to adapt and make strategic decisions under pressure will be key. The fans are hopeful that despite these setbacks, the team will rise to the occasion, showing resilience and determination to kick off their Euro 2024 campaign with a victory.