Although David Marshall was the penalty shoot-out hero for Scotland in their play-off win over Serbia and is his country’s longest-serving player and although Pickford’s form has certainly been highly questionable it is still hard to make a compelling case for the 35-year-old Derby County goalkeeper over England’s No 1 whose main challenger is probably team-mate Nick Pope.
England have decided to use Walker again on the right of the three-man defence where his pace is invaluable. Scotland have adapted Scott McTominay to play in that role and although he has done well he remains more of a midfielder. Walker’s greatest challenge would come from a fit-again Joe Gomez or Eric Dier rather than from a Scotland player.
Despite his poor start to the season Maguire remains England’s first-choice centre-half and appears to be playing himself back to form. Maybe there is a case for Conor Coady, a specialist in the role, at the heart of the back three and although Scotland’s Declan Gallagher performed superbly in handling the threat of Serbia’s Aleksandar Mitrovic he would not make the line-up.
The Arsenal defender deserves inclusion as much for his character as his ability. The 23-year-old has shown great adaptability for club and country in moving between left-back, left wing-back and centre-half and is worthy of inclusion. Tyrone Mings is increasing in confidence and influence for England but Tierney would certainly appear to have a stronger case.
England are incredibly blessed at right-back and there is a powerful argument for Trent Alexander-Arnold who probably remains England’s first choice in the position. But James has been outstanding and has taken to international football and is also perhaps more able than the Liverpool defender at playing as a wing-back. Kieran Trippier and even Tariq Lamptey also have cases. Scotland’s Stephen O’Donnell would therefore face extremely stiff competition.
Although Declan Rice continues to show he is England’s future as a midfield pivot it is still hard to look beyond the experience and influence that the Liverpool captain brings to the team. Often under-estimated Henderson is always missed when he does not play and would bring valuable know-how. For Scotland, using a slightly different system, Callum McGregor was outstanding against Serbia especially against the highly-rated Sergei Milinkovic-Savic and Ryan Jack was also impressive.
Although he plays further forward for Scotland, McGinn has been extremely impressive in a more central midfield role for Aston Villa having finally regained full fitness and would bring energy, mobility and drive. There is a strong case for his inclusion in a combined team given it is probably the place in the England side that is most up for grabs.
Scotland’s captain and best player. There is a case for Robertson being the best left-back (or indeed wing-back) in the world never mind in Britain. Has continued his outstanding form for Liverpool and is a real leader. Ben Chilwell would struggle to displace Robertson despite clearly being England’s first choice in an area where there is not a great deal of competition and impressing since his big-money move to Chelsea.
Scotland play with a varied formation but there is no candidate who would displace Sterling who with captain Harry Kane is one of England’s two best players. Ryan Christie is a key performer for Celtic and Scotland and, of course, scored the crucial goal against Serbia but even his strongest supporters would struggle to include him ahead of Sterling.
As much a difference as Lyndon Dykes has made to Scotland with the focus the Queen’s Park Rangers centre-forward has given the attack and the work he gets through he probably has the hardest task of all in trying to dislodge the England captain from a combined XI. Kane’s influence is growing as he has become even more of a creator as well as remaining a prolific goal-scorer.
The biggest challenge Rashford faces comes from within the England squad where there is an increasingly compelling case for Jack Grealish. Jadon Sancho would also stake a claim and Mason Mount remains a favourite of Gareth Southgate but Rashford would probably still shade it, for now, over Grealish although if the latter maintains his brilliant form that may quickly change. For Scotland – if only they had any of those players.