England’s Kobbie Mainoo likely to start vs. Slovakia – sources

Gareth Southgate is giving serious consideration to starting Kobbie Mainoo in England‘s round-of-16 clash with Slovakia on Sunday, sources have told ESPN.

The 19-year-old appeared as a half-time substitute against Slovenia in England’s final Group C game and although the match finished 0-0, Mainoo helped instigate an improved display in the second period.

Southgate has been searching for the right balance in midfield having tried Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold and then Chelsea’s Conor Gallagher alongside Arsenal’s Declan Rice with limited success in the group stage before turning to Mainoo.

Should the Manchester United midfielder start in Gelsenkirchen, it would be only his sixth international cap and the latest step in a dramatic rise since making his full Premier League debut in November.

Southgate is under pressure to deliver an improved display after England won just one game and scored only two goals on the way to topping Group C.

The England boss confirmed at a pre-match press conference on Saturday that Luke Shaw would not be fit enough to begin the game against Slovakia but could play some part from the bench if their medical team deem him ready as he continues to overcome a hamstring problem which has sidelined the United defender since February.

Southgate is expected to resist wholesale changes to his line-up and it is possible Mainoo will be the only change, although Anthony Gordon and Cole Palmer are pushing hard for places following lively cameos as substitutes against Slovenia. The winner will face a quarterfinal against Switzerland in Dusseldorf on Saturday.