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Marcus Rashford may be overlooked for England’s March double-header at Wembley

England manager Gareth Southgate (left) and Marcus Rashford during a press conference at Wembley Stadium, London.
(Image credit: John Walton)

Marcus Rashford may be overlooked when England manager Gareth Southgate names his first squad of this World Cup year.

Having wrapped up qualification in November, the team start preparations for this winter’s tournament in Qatar with a Wembley double-header.

England take on Switzerland in a friendly under the arch on March 26, before Ivory Coast arrive for the nations’ first-ever senior international encounter on March 29.

Marcus Rashford has struggled this season

Marcus Rashford has struggled this season (Martin Rickett/PA)

Southgate announces his selection for the friendlies on Thursday afternoon, when Rashford looks in danger of missing the cut.

The Manchester United forward has not played for England since missing a penalty in the Euro 2020 final shootout loss to Italy.

Rashford missed the September and October camps following surgery on a long-standing shoulder issue, then withdrew from November’s squad to concentrate on building full fitness.

The 24-year-old has only scored twice since then during a poor run of form that means he may fail to make the cut for this month’s friendlies.

While one United forward struggles, another has kicked on.

Jadon Sancho's performances have improved in recent months

Jadon Sancho’s performances have improved in recent months (Martin Rickett/PA)

Jadon Sancho, who also missed the target in the shootout loss to Italy, is expected to be selected, having been dropped in November after a shaky start to life at Old Trafford following his switch from Borussia Dortmund.

West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen was tipped to join him in the England squad, only for a heel issue to put paid to a maiden call-up.

David Moyes said on Thursday that Bowen was unavailable for Thursday’s Europa League tie against Sevilla and “probably won’t be available until, at the earliest, until after the international break”.

England Under-21s captain Marc Guehi and midfielder Jacob Ramsey have caught the eye, but it remains to be seen whether Southgate will prefer him to stay with Lee Carsley’s side for their qualifiers.

Ben Chilwell is out for the remainder of Chelsea's season

Ben Chilwell is out for the remainder of Chelsea’s season (Mike Egerton/PA)

Liverpool’s Harvey Elliott and Curtis Jones are part of the Young Lions set-up, where Emile Smith Rowe and Conor Gallagher may not return after their senior debuts late last year.

Southgate has interesting decisions to make at left-back, with Ben Chilwell out for the season, versatile full-back Kieran Trippier injured and Luke Shaw absent for recent club matches.

Tyrick Mitchell, Matt Targett, Kyle Walker-Peters, James Justin and Luke Thomas offer potential solutions.

Kalvin Phillips remains out with a hamstring injury and Reece James has been dealing with a muscle issue recently.

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Eric Dier, who has not featured for England since last March, and Euro 2020 squad member Ben White are pushing for recalls at centre-back along with Fikayo Tomori.

England only have two further international meet-ups before the World Cup gets under way in November.

The Three Lions will play four Nations League matches in June, before completing their group with the final two fixtures in September.

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