Telegraph Sport has learned that Gareth Southgate is considering Luke Shaw at centre-back in a three-man defence

Credit: Ryan Pierse – Uefa/Uefa

Gareth Southgate is considering playing Luke Shaw at centre-back against Croatia this weekend in a move that could see England start their European Championships campaign with four full-backs in the team.  

The England manager has practised with a 3-4-3 and four-man defence to find a solution in the absence of the injured Harry Maguire ahead of the first match of the tournament on Sunday at Wembley.

And one combination looked at by Southgate was Shaw on the left side of three centre-backs, in a position where he filled in for Manchester United at times last season when his return to form saw him back in Southgate’s plans after a three-year absence.

Kyle Walker, one of the three right-backs in the squad, has also played as centre-back alongside John Stones in both systems with Southgate set to decide on his best line-up with three days before their tournament opener.

If Southgate does select Shaw and Walker in a back three then Ben Chilwell would almost certainly start at left wing-back with either Kieran Trippier and Reece James on the right likely to mean England would begin the game with four full-backs on the field. 

Luke Shaw front) trains with centre-back Tyrone Mings (back) in the England camp

Credit: JUSTIN TALLIS /AFP

The selection issues underline the extent to which Maguire’s ankle injury has caused a rethink so close to the tournament. 

Tyrone Mings played at centre-back in the warm-up matches against Austria and Romania, with Conor Coady alongside him in the former, while Ben White was the final call-up to the 26-man squad after Trent Alexander-Arnold’s injury.

But at this stage only Stones appears a certainty in the centre of Southgate’s defence, having earned a recall in March. 

The Manchester City defender was part of a three-man backline at the World Cup three years ago, alongside Walker and Maguire, when Southgate’s team reached the semi-finals in Russia.

Southgate has since adopted a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 which he used in the March internationals in the final international matches of season before the pre-tournament friendlies.

If Southgate doesn’t select Shaw at centre-back he faces a difficult choice between the Manchester United man and Chilwell, with both left-backs in excellent form during the season and until now thought likely to be competing for the same place in the side.