Southgate, who has not recalled Daniel Sturridge, Jermain Defoe or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain despite six withdrawals since last weekend’s fixtures, has been discussing with his coaching staff removing Hart from his team to face the world champions due to the goalkeeper’s erratic form for West Ham United.
The England manager watched Stoke City’s 2-2 draw against Leicester City at the weekend and despite his public shows of support for Hart, he and the staff have privately conceded that Butland has been in the more impressive form this season. Hart’s mistakes have also undermined his England appearances over the past year, though he was named man of the match in the last game at Wembley, against Slovenia.
Southgate has already shown in his squad selection that he is not afraid of taking difficult decisions, making a point of telephoning all of the dropped players to explain why, but he is also understood to be dismayed by the list of withdrawals for friendly fixtures against the world’s two highest-ranked teams – Germany first and then Brazil on Tuesday.
Three of the absentees come from Tottenham and Southgate’s mood will not be helped by Mauricio Pochettino, the club’s manager, declaring that Harry Kane will be fit for their game against Arsenal when the Premier League resumes the following weekend.
Kane took a kick during Tottenham’s 1-0 defeat of Crystal Palace on Sunday and has been ruled out along with his club-mates Dele Alli and Harry Winks. Kane was lined up to captain Southgate’s team and Pochettino’s prediction has hallmarks of what happened with Jamie Vardy before the last international get-together, when the striker pulled out to “manage” an injury despite Leicester City saying he would be available for their next game. “Harry Kane is OK,” Pochettino said. “You can see in the last game he received a kick to his knee but he will be available for the next game.”
The players of England and Germany are to wear black armbands bearing poppies after Fifa changed the rules that would have previously meant it leading to disciplinary action.
Southgate will be joined by John Stones at Thursday’s press conference and may announce the Manchester City defender as his captain in the absence of Kane and Jordan Henderson.
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