England is five days away from kick-starting their 2022 World Cup campaign in Qatar when Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions clash with Carlos Queiroz’s dogged Iran outfit at Al Rayyan Stadium on 21 November, but the English manager will be unable to call upon Manchester City’s Kyle Walker in the process.
As confirmed by SkySports earlier this afternoon, Walker will not be fit in time to line up in Southgate’s XI in the crucial opening Group B fixture versus an Iranian outfit that comes into the tournament with confidence on the back of a recent 1-0 win against Uruguay as well as a 1-1 draw against Senegal.
Walker, who has not featured for City since early October after surgery, was still selected by Southgate for the England squad with the expectation that he will have a key role to play this winter once he has returned to full fitness but the clash against Iran has come a little too soon for the 32-year-old Sheffield native.
The veteran full-back is likely to be ready for England’s second group stage fixture against the United States on 25 November, but the question now will come down to who Southgate will look to call upon in his absence.
Arsenal’s Ben White, Tottenham’s Eric Dier, and Everton’s Conor Coady will be looking to earn their managers’ trust in the coming days as the right-sided center-back in England’s expected back three, and there are few that could speak against White’s chances after the Gunners defender has been in fantastic form for Mikel Arteta’s table-topping outfit.
Coady has enjoyed himself since his move to Everton under Frank Lampard this season as well, forming a very credible partnership with fellow summer signing James Tarkowski, while Dier is the more experienced of the three options in terms of service of his country but comes into the tournament on the back of probably the worst run of form by comparison to his challengers.
With Iran capable both on paper and on the pitch, Southgate must get this key early decision right if England are to enjoy a good start to their winter campaign in Qatar.