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England are thought to have been practising a different formation ahead of Saturday’s Euro 2024 quarter-final against Switzerland, suggesting that manager Gareth Southgate might finally be open to a more substantial change after a lacklustre start to the tournament.

The Three Lions underwhelmed in group stage games against Serbia, Denmark and Slovenia, collecting only five points and scoring a measly total of two goals. They were then on the brink of a shock last 16 exit at the hands of Slovakia until Jude Bellingham’s stoppage time intervention.

Southgate has persisted with a 4-2-3-1 system in each game, picking ten of the same players every time. The only change saw Conor Gallagher replace Trent Alexander-Arnold in central midfield for the Slovenia game, and then Kobbie Mainoo get that place against Slovakia.

But in chasing the game in the previous round, England finished in a 3-5-2 shape and the Daily Mail has reported that system was in use again on the training pitch on Wednesday.

It suggests that Southgate is prepared to set up his team that way for Switzerland, who play three at the back themselves, although there is no indication as to whether it would be from the start of the game or as a possible adaptation in the locker for later on.

Engand's Marc GuehiEngand's Marc Guehi

Marc Guehi’s yellow card suspension means at least one change / Crystal Pix/MB Media/GettyImages

With the impressive Marc Guehi suspended, at least one defensive change has to happen. Aston Villa’s Ezri Konsa is the most likely to get the nod in that role, but a 3-5-2 could see Kyle Walker join the centre-backs, with wing-backs then flanking the trio on either side.

That kind of system could be a reprieve for Trent Alexander-Arnold, or possibly the reintroduction of Luke Shaw. Even Bukayo Saka has played at wing-back in the past if Southgate wants to stack attacking players and find a way to also get Anthony Gordon or Cole Palmer in the starting XI.

Of course, Southgate’s England teams have been no stranger to a back three formation. At the 2018 World Cup, that system underpinned the run to the semi-finals, with Walker and Stones joined by Harry Maguire. It was occasionally seen at Euro 2020 too, with the same three players forming a centre-back trio in the last 16 against Germany and the final against Italy.

Southgate himself even played in a back three in two appearances at the 1998 World Cup.

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