Kyle Walker is set to start England’s first World Cup game against Iran on Monday,
The Manchester City defender has been a key cog for England in recent international tournaments, playing at right-back and in the back three at the 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020.
He was included in Gareth Southgate’s squad for Qatar despite struggling for fitness in the weeks leading up to the tournament. The 32-year-old last played in City’s 6-3 win over Manchester United at the start of October and has since been racing against time to be fit for the start of the World Cup.
However, he has been included in England’s 26-man squad and is understood to be ready to start against Iran for 90 minutes. Walker surprised the Three Lions coaching staff who didn’t think he would be ready in time.
His return to fitness will influence Southgate’s formation selection. Against Iran, who England are expected to beat, Walker could feature in his regular right-back position, although he faces competition in the form of Kieran Trippier and Trent Alexander-Arnold.
John Stones will likely pair up with Harry Maguire in central defence with Luke Shaw on the left, though questions remain over which attackers Southgate will select.
Captain Harry Kane will undoubtedly start, with Raheem Sterling also looking to replicate his Euro 2020 form after a disappointing start to life with Chelsea. Bukayo Saka, Mason Mount and Phil Foden are among those battling for a starting XI spot.