Daily Mail

Gareth rewards in-form Konsa, Lewis and Cole


GARETH Southgate has handed Cole Palmer and Rico Lewis their first senior internatio­nal call-ups, with the England manager set to decide on Jude Bellingham’s fitness this morning.

Southgate has also called up Aston Villa centre back Ezri Konsa for the first time for the Euro qualifiers against Malta on Friday and North Macedonia next Monday.

Bellingham reported to St George’s Park yesterday, where medics will examine his fitness ahead of training today after Real Madrid claimed their midfielder will miss the next fortnight because of a shoulder problem.

If England deem Bellingham unavailabl­e for the final Euro 2024 qualifiers then Southgate will open the door for the 20-year-old to stay at the team’s training base to undergo part of his rehab before returning to Spain. This is the penultimat­e camp before Southgate selects his squad for Germany 2024 and he believes it is beneficial for his players to remain part of the group for team meetings ahead of next summer’s tournament.

Bellingham, Luke Shaw and Trent Alexander-Arnold have all joined and remained with the squad for a period this year despite being unavailabl­e due to injury.

Elsewhere, Chelsea defender Levi Colwill’s inclusion is in doubt after he complained of pain in his shoulder socket, an injury that caused him to miss Sunday’s 4-4 draw with Manchester City.

Palmer, Lewis and Konsa’s call- ups come after James Maddison, Lewis Dunk and Callum Wilson withdrew from the squad due to injury.

Konsa has long been on Southgate’s radar after consistent­ly impressing in the heart of Aston Villa’s defence.

Lee Carsley’s Under 21s will call up replacemen­ts for Palmer and

Fresh face: Villa’s Ezri Konsa has earned his first call-up

Lewis before their Euro 2025 qualifiers against Serbia and Northern Ireland, as the defending champions look to bounce back from a shock defeat by Ukraine last month.

Although England have qualified for the Euros already, Southgate is planning to pick strong teams against Malta and North Macedonia with his side needing two victories to ensure they are seeded for next summer’s competitio­n. A seeding would mean they would

avoid the likes of France and Germany in the group stages. Germany are automatica­lly given top seeding as hosts, with five other spots available to the best qualifiers. Ahead of the final round of qualifiers France, Belgium, Portugal, Slovenia and Denmark have more points than England, who have taken 16 points from six matches. Some of those teams, though, have played more games than England.

Victories over Malta and North Macedonia should be enough for England to secure top seeding, as Slovenia and Denmark are in the same group. In addition, England have a superior goal difference to Romania and Turkey, who also have 16 points.

Southgate’s staff have already begun scouting training camps and hotels in Germany but the FA will not make a final decision on their base until after the draw in Hamburg on December 2.

Southgate has preferred to stay in remote locations away from fans and other city-centre distractio­ns in the previous two tournament­s he has managed outside England, the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in Russia and Qatar.


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