Roy Hodgson wants his fringe players to prove a point to him in Turin as he prepares to field an “experimental” line-up against Italy. England’s confidence is running high after they thumped Lithuania 4-0 on Friday to stretch their post-World Cup winning streak to seven matches.
They know a much stiffer test lies around the corner though. Italy find themselves in the midst of a crisis after coach Antonio Conte received death threats from angry Juventus fans who blame him for causing Claudio Marchisio to break down with a serious knee injury.
The Azzurri are also without experienced campaigners Andrea Pirlo and Daniele De Rossi, but they are still by far the toughest opposition England have faced since their winless and joyless campaign in Brazil.
Hodgson’s plans have been turned completely upside down after nine squad withdrawals, though. The likes of Chris Smalling, Kieran Gibbs, Andros Townsend, Theo Walcott and Ross Barkley are likely to get a chance in Turin and with competition for places increasing, particularly in midfield and attack, Hodgson wants to see encouraging signs from those who step in.
“We’ve got a tougher test ahead of us against Italy and we will be playing that game with players we wouldn’t normally rely upon,” the England manager told FA TV.
“There are an awful lot of people in the squad I count on that we’ve lost, but what it means is for those who are still with us, many who are relatively untried, there will be a chance for them to show that my faith in selecting them for this squad was justified.”
Hodgson confirmed on Saturday that Danny Welbeck, Raheem Sterling, James Milner and Leighton Baines would all return to their clubs.
Southampton full-back Ryan Bertrand is the only replacement so Hodgson now has 20 players – including three goalkeepers – to choose from.