Stuart Pearce will pick a team for England's final group game against Israel on Tuesday night with a view to qualification for the next European Championship, despite the fact he is unlikely to be in charge for that campaign.
After losing their first two matches against Italy and Norway, Pearce's players have no chance of reaching the semi-finals and are seeking to avoid becoming the first England side to depart an Under-21 tournament without a point and only the second ever, after Israel's failure in 2007.
Pearce's position has come under renewed scrutiny on the back of England's poor performances and it is widely anticipated that he will be told his contract will not be renewed when it expires at the end of the month. Gareth Southgate, the former Middlesbrough manager, is the favourite to take over.
Although Pearce is desperate to avoid the ignominy of finishing bottom of the group, the England manager said he feels duty bound to select a team with an eye on the future. Liverpool's Andre Wisdom and Chelsea's Josh McEachran are set to be given their first starts of the tournament. He will also reward Jason Steele, the Middlesbrough goalkeeper, and Tom Lees, the Leeds United defender, with a place in the starting XI.
Asked whether he feels he is going into his last match as Under-21 manager, Pearce replied: "Not overly, no. My position was fairly clear. I'm going to pick a team [against Israel] which has got a real heavy bias on what is coming over the next two years. I'm preparing as I normally do.
"I never like to give my team away but the one thing I can tell you is I'm going to select the team with a view to the next campaign. I have to make sure we have 10 or 11 players within this group that can run for the next campaign. I think the experience for those players will be vital in this tournament, even though we've not been successful."
Of the current squad, Jack Butland, Wisdom, McEachran, Nathaniel Chalobah, Wilfried Zaha, Tom Ince, Jonjo Shelvey, Nathan Redmond and Connor Wickham are eligible to play in the next Under-21 campaign, as are Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Phil Jones, regular members of the senior squad.
Pearce believes his players will be keen to restore some pride against an Israel side that have the faintest of chances of reaching the semi-finals if they beat England. "The players are the ones that have to deliver a performance, I get the feeling that they're primed and ready to do so," Pearce said. "I don't think any country wants to go home having not won a game."
England (4-2-3-1, probable): Steele; Wisdom, Lees, Dawson, Robinson; Henderson, Chalobah; Ince, McEachran, Redmond; Wickham
Israel (4-4-2, probable): Kleyman; Verta, Ben-Harush, Vahaba, Davidzara; Zaguri, Biton, Krieff, Sallalich; Dabbur, Turgeman
Referee S Boiko (Ukraine)
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