England boss Gareth Southgate blames Premier League for Three Lions stars underperforming

An injury crisis coming into this international double-header has been exacerbated by suspensions to John Stones and Jordan Henderson, and Southgate said: “Maybe they were expecting us to be back by the end of June.

“Of course it’s always easy to make a comment like that and not know the complex scenario decision-makers had to go through.

“But everybody knew when the final was and the semi-final, and that they would be away for a period of time. It’s a bit like our clubs in the Champions League. Some of the rest of the leagues in Europe help them and adjust the fixture list.

“And I’m sure our clubs would appreciate that because in the end they’re representing English football and we want them all to do well.”

Stones has already returned to England and Henderson has stuck to his plans to spend a couple of extra days in Spain with his family.

Joe Gomez will come into the centre-back position for tonight’s game against Spain, with Kieran Trippier replacing Kyle Walker at right-back and Harry Winks making his second appearance as a holding midfielder.

That will give Southgate the opportunity to experiment with Ross Barkley in a No10 role playing off Harry Kane in a bid to help his captain get back on the scoresheet.

There is a feeling that tiredness has played a big part in below-par displays throughout the squad since the World Cup.

Certainly Spain, who exited the World Cup 13 days earlier than England, started their domestic league seven days after the Premier League.

As a result, the home-based La Liga players got 47 days’ rest compared to 27 for England’s Premier League players.

With 18 of the 23-man England squad who went to Russia now involved in European competition, that burden is starting to bite.

“When you see the league, a lot of teams haven’t started yet at the level when they are at their maximum,” said Southgate.

“And there are a lot of injuries across our league. I think it’s psychological rather than physical.”

Raheem Sterling is one who could do with a psychological boost – not least his first international goal for three years. Southgate is backing him.

“It’s going to be a confidence thing that when the goal comes he will go on a scoring run,” he said.

“He’s been tough enough to deal with challenges in the past and I expect him to come through this.”

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