Gareth Southgate has to weigh up some of his players’ lack of form and game time ahead of naming the squad charged with wrapping up England’s World Cup qualification.
The Three Lions remain unbeaten on the road to Qatar but drawing two of their last three Group I matches means they only have a three-point cushion with two games to go.
England host Albania at Wembley next Friday before rounding off qualification with a trip to minnows San Marino – the lowest ranked side in world football.
Some bookmakers have the Three Lions priced at 1/1,000 to top the group but Southgate is unlikely to gamble too much when he announces his squad on Thursday afternoon.
The England boss has not swayed wildly away from the group he lent on during the run to the Euro 2020 final, although returning players may give him some selection headaches.
Reece James, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Harry Maguire and Kalvin Phillips missed last month’s internationals through injury but are back in contention.
Marcus Rashford, whose last England cap came in the Euro 2020 final, is also back playing after shoulder surgery and has shone brighter than some of his Manchester United teammates.
Jadon Sancho has yet to find his groove since his big money summer move to Old Trafford from Borussia Dortmund, while Jesse Lingard’s rejuvenation has stunted somewhat.
United teammates Maguire and Luke Shaw are in poor form, while fellow Euro 2020 stars John Stones and Raheem Sterling continue to struggle for game time at Manchester City.
Stones has made more international appearances than club ones this season, while Sterling has only started three of City’s opening 10 Premier League games.
Southgate’s decision on young talents Jude Bellingham and Mason Greenwood will be interesting given he overlooked them last month with their long-term development in mind.
There are some exciting players that have been with the England Under-21s, who face an important qualifier against Czech Republic before ending 2021 with a friendly in Georgia.
Among the most interesting names that have been in Lee Carsley’s squad are Conor Gallagher, who is impressing on loan at Crystal Palace, and rising Arsenal midfielder Emile Smith Rowe.
Aaron Ramsdale and Ben White joined the 21-year-old at the Emirates Stadium in the summer and are pushing to be selected. The latter has not been involved since the European Championship.
Strikers Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Patrick Bamford remain out, but Southgate has relatively few injury issues to contend with.