By Greg Lea.
There are now just three and half months left before the 15th edition of the European Championship gets under way in France. England's first match takes place on the second day of the tournament, with Roy Hodgson's side facing Russia at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille on June 11. With the competition closing in, there are still a number of selection issues for the Three Lions manager to iron out before he settles on a final 23-man squad to take across the Channel.
In terms of goalkeepers, the choice appears to be pretty straightforward: Joe Hart will be England's No.1 and start between the sticks as long as he is not injured, with Stoke City's Jack Butland and Southampton's Fraser Forster likely to be the Manchester City man's two deputies. West Bromwich Albion's Ben Foster, Burnley's Tom Heaton and John Ruddy of Norwich City are other options, although none are of the standard of the trio that are likely to be called up.
In defence, Nathaniel Clyne, Chris Smalling, John Stones and Ryan Bertrand all seem like shoe-ins, while the knee injury sustained by Kurt Zouma earlier this month has opened the door for Gary Cahill, who may have struggled to book a spot on the plane had he continued to be limited to a place on the substitutes' bench at Chelsea.
Phil Jones, if fit, could be selected due to his versatility, while Phil Jagielka will also be hoping to be included. Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier, Kieran Gibbs, Calum Chambers, Leighton Baines and Danny Rose are all options at full-back, so too Luke Shaw if he is able to return to action at Manchester United before the end of the domestic campaign.
Midfield is perhaps the toughest area to predict, with numerous players battling for a place in Hodgson's group. The emergence of Leicester City's Danny Drinkwater and Tottenham Hotspur duo Eric Dier and Dele Alli has added a few new names to a mix that already contained Michael Carrick, Ross Barkley, James Milner, Jordan Henderson, Fabian Delph, Tom Cleverley, Jack Wilshere and Jonjo Shelvey, with Adam Lallana, Raheem Sterling, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jesse Lingard and Andros Townsend potential choices in the wide areas. Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck are two others who could be used on the flanks, although both are also capable and probably prefer playing through the middle.
There is already fierce competition in that centre-forward position, though, with Wayne Rooney, Jamie Vardy, Harry Kane and Daniel Sturridge all almost certain to be selected if they steer clear of injury in the run-up to the tournament. There is much debate over who should start and whether Kane or Rooney will be used behind another striker or as lone frontmen, with Hodgson perhaps tempted to vary his selection depending on England's opponents and whether they are likely to dominate possession or play on the counter-attack.
England face world champions Germany and the Netherlands in friendlies next month as they step up their preparation for the European Championship, with the two matches offering Hodgson a chance to experiment with new faces, tactics and systems before the warm-up games and tournament proper.
The former Blackburn Rovers, Fulham and Liverpool boss has probably already settled on the majority of his choices in the 23-man squad, but it is likely that there are a still a few decisions to be made before his England side begin their bid to win the country's first major trophy since the 1966 World Cup on home soil half a century ago.
Roy Hodgson Prepares for Euro 2016
By Greg Lea.