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Gareth Southgate has contradicted earlier comments he made about Dele Alli by suggesting the Tottenham star isn’t a guaranteed starter for England at the World Cup this summer.

After Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw with Italy at Wembley, Southgate claimed the reason Alli didn’t play was down to his fitness – the midfielder had apparently been unable to finish training sessions with the rest of the group during the international break.

However, the England manager has now suggested other attacking players were preferred to Alli for the friendlies against Italy and the Netherlands, which could mean the 21-year-old won’t be in Southgate’s starting line-up in Russia.

“I have a problem because I have Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jamie Vardy so there is a huge choice,” Southgate told reporters (via the Guardian).

“I don’t foresee a scenario where any of those players don’t come to Russia but I have to make those decisions. There is no reason he [Alli] will not come and he can make a huge impact there. He has the ability and I am looking forward to seeing him over the next few weeks.”

“We want competition for places but there was no ulterior motive to leaving him out. We wanted to look at Raheem again but Dele is still an important player for us. He is in the mix.”

The improved form of Jesse Lingard and Raheem Sterling has certainly made things more difficult for Alli, who has struggled to find his best form for Spurs this season.

It’s possible the youngster is merely experiencing a blip, but he will probably be worried about his England place. That said, he absolutely should be in the squad, if not the starting eleven.

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