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Maguire court case, Sterling scare and Walker’s calamities add up to squad nightmare for Southgate 

Gareth Southgate is facing one of the biggest headaches of his reign on Tuesday as he awaits news of Harry Maguire’s court appearance.

But Maguire’s hearing in Greece is not the only significant problem the England boss has ahead of naming his first squad in 10 months on Tuesday afternoon. 

Southgate’s dilemmas also include:

Undoubtedly, however, the most serious issue facing Southgate is whether to include Maguire, whose hearing in relation to assault allegations on the Greek island of Mykonos will be heard on Tuesday morning.

There were suggestions on Monday that the case could be delayed because of a Covid-19 outbreak at the courthouse in Syros, which would have added to Southgate’s problems. But it is understood the hearing will go ahead as planned on Tuesday.

That opens up the possibility of Southgate knowing the full story of Maguire’s involvement in the alleged incident — and more importantly if he is found guilty — before he confirms his squad at 2pm on Tuesday afternoon.

Sportsmail understands Maguire wants to be considered for the squad to face Iceland and Denmark at the start of September despite the turmoil.

Sources claim that Southgate, who has an excellent relationship with Maguire, is minded to select his key central defender if he is cleared of the charges made against him — particularly because he has a significant dearth of top-class centre backs.

However, his selection is likely to depend on the details emerging from result of the hearing. While Southgate wants to pick his strongest possible squad — which includes Maguire — how the Manchester United captain emerges from the court proceedings will have a bearing on his final decision.

Southgate has shown in the past that he is not afraid of reprimanding high-profile players for a lack of discipline — most recently dropping Sterling for one game following a bust-up with Joe Gomez on international duty.

It remains to be seen whether Southgate is prepared to overlook the actions of Grealish and Walker after they broke lockdown guidelines earlier this year.

Aston Villa captain Grealish is certainly on Southgate’s radar following an impressive season in helping his club maintain their Premier League status.

Walker was in line for an international recall for the cancelled March international break following a string of excellent performances for Manchester City. The right back’s good form continued post-lockdown and he remains on England’s radar.

Sportsmail understands that Walker’s re-emergence into Southgate’s reckoning is linked to the England boss considering a switch back to three at the back — a system he used so successfully during World Cup 2018.

However, Grealish and Walker will be concerned over their selection on Tuesday following their misbehaviour during lockdown.

Southgate’s squad will in general take on a youthful complexion with emerging City star Phil Foden set for his first call-up following an impressive end to the campaign.

Manchester United striker Mason Greenwood is also pushing hard for his first cap. Team-mate Brandon Williams has impressed but this squad is likely to come too soon for him.

Southgate knows he will be required to keep a long standby list given the potential for dropouts.

The Football Association will test every member of the football operation — including players — upon their arrival at St George’s Park next week. The squad will also be tested ahead of games.

The FA are acutely aware of the consequences that positive tests could have next week and are finalising a protocol. 

Sportsmail knows of at least one player likely to be in Southgate’s squad who has tested positive in recent days.

A number of players — including Maguire — are also returning from their summer holidays which could leave them susceptible to the virus. 

Indeed, there were concerns on Monday night that Sterling may be vulnerable after he attended a party hosted by Olympic sprinting legend Bolt, who was on Monday reported as having contracted the virus — though the Jamaican insisted he is still waiting for confirmation.

In a further complication, on Monday FIFA temporarily changed their rules concerning the release of players from domestic clubs for international duty.

FIFA decided the ‘general rules which normally oblige clubs to release players for national matches should not apply’ if matches are being played where there is a ‘mandatory period of quarantine of at least five days upon arrival’. Or there is ‘a travel restriction to or from either location’.

Sources said the FA were unconcerned on Monday night but five days of self-isolation is currently required upon arrival in Iceland. There is also growing concern that Denmark could soon be added to the UK Government’s ‘red list’ because of a recent spike in Covid-19 cases.

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