Tottenham Hotspur defender Eric Dier is set to start at the heart of the England defence for the World Cup qualifier against Lithuania to cover for the withdrawal of Manchester United's Phil Jones. Following a collision with Chris Smalling in training, Jones has returned to his club side having reportedly suffered a broken toe – which could see him miss a large chunk of the remainder of the season.
The injury leaves Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate with just three recognised centre-backs for the double-header starting against Germany on Wednesday [22 March] and Lithuania, who they face on Sunday [26 March]. Burnley's Michael Keane is set to make his international debut against the world champions in Dortmund, alongside Smalling and Everton defender John Stones.
But Southgate is set to call on Dier, who will start in midfield alongside Jake Livermore against Germany, to fill the void left by United's Jones. The former Everton youngster has been deployed at the back at regular intervals this season for Tottenham, starting 20 of the last 21 Premier League games as part of a back three.
"No, not at the moment," Southgate responded when asked if a replacement for Jones, who has returned to United for treatment, would be called on. "We've still got Chris Smalling, John Stones and Michael Keane. We've also got Eric Dier who could play at centre-back – but we're also missing some players in midfield. We'll have a look after Germany and assess it from there."
While England are facing a selection dilemma, the injury is set to affect United's plans for the end of the campaign which sees them still fighting on two fronts. The Times understands Jones could miss a large chunk of the club's schedule in April, which sees them play nine times in the space of 30 days.
Their Premier League schedule resumes with home games against West Bromwich Albion and Everton, before they travel to Sunderland prior to the Europa League quarter-final first leg at Anderlecht. Leaders Chelsea then visit Old Trafford before the return leg against Anderlecht and trip to Burnley. Games with Manchester City and Swansea City follow before the end of the month.