Gareth Southgate has ruled Dele Alli out of contention to face a Panama side who calmly revealed their line-up early after days of intense scrutiny about England’s starters.
England can seal progress to the World Cup last-16 stage with a game to spare if they follow up Monday’s 2-1 win against Tunisia with another victory in sweltering Nizhny Novgorod on Sunday.
Much of the build-up has revolved around Southgate’s starting side after the publication of pictures of assistant Steve Holland’s training notes on Thursday.
The England manager played down the importance of that picture on the eve of the game and the furore that followed it, especially as “people have taken something from it which probably isn’t correct”.
Southgate has now told his players the starting line-up for the penultimate Group G match and confirmed Alli will miss out with a thigh strain.
“This morning he followed the exact programme we had planned,” Southgate said.
“He started training with the rest of the group and then did some more running on his own, so he’s progressing really well.
“We’re really pleased with where he is at, but he wouldn’t be ready for the game tomorrow.”
Alli looks set to be replaced in the starting line-up by Ruben Loftus-Cheek, while all eyes will be on the team sheet to see whether Marcus Rashford does indeed replace Raheem Sterling.
There are no such questions over the Panama team.
Head coach Hernan Dario Gomez confirmed an unchanged starting line-up at the start of his press conference.
“It’s always helpful to know the opposition team,” Southgate said with a smile when the contrast was brought up.
“Let’s be frank, we won the other night, we played well so we are not going to make many changes. He knows we have to make one.
“But, yeah, that’s a personal choice. I think if I did it for this game having not done it for any others it would probably be seen as disrespectful to the opponent, so I’d be in another storm!”
Southgate understands the hunger to find out his team as much as the importance for England to keep a broader perspective to prevent getting “really insular” and “defensive” about issues like the pictured training note.
The England manager hopes to keep a relaxed environment where players are having fun, with the former defender particularly keen to keep those yet to get minutes happy.
“I think it’s huge,” Southgate said. “More than anything I think for the guys who aren’t in the team tomorrow or who haven’t been in the team for either game.
“I’ve fulfilled that role and know how difficult it is.
“We’ve got some young lads for who it’s no doubt going to be just as challenging, in a different way, as it is to the senior lads who are used to playing.
“But I’ve got to say we’ve got some brilliant top professionals who are coping really well with that, both in their approach to training and in the conversations they have around the team.
“But there’s no doubt the further we go in the tournament the more carefully that dynamic needs to be handled by myself and the staff. And I think it’s key to teams doing well at tournaments.”