Tottenham's Dier to captain England vs. Germany, Loftus-Cheek to start
Eric Dier will captain England in their friendly against Germany on Friday, the Football Association has announced, while Ruben Loftus-Cheek will start and Tammy Abraham is expected to see minutes as Gareth Southgate continues playing England's generation game.
With the Three Lions depleted by a host of withdrawals boss Southgate has handed the armband to Dier.
Dier, who has won 21 caps, becomes the sixth captain of Southgate's reign and at 23 is the fifth-youngest post-war skipper.
Southgate said on the Football Association's official website: "Eric is an established player in the side now. He plays with maturity and intelligence. He understands the game really well. He is also a great role model.
"His approach to everything is very professional. He hardly ever misses a game and plays in an unselfish manner.
"I think he can be even more of a leader than he currently is and I am hoping giving him this reward and responsibility will also bring even more out of him as well.''
Dier's Tottenham teammate Harry Kane, who is one of the absentees, had the armband in the last game as England won 1-0 in Lithuania.
The 21-year-old Loftus-Cheek will be the ninth debutant in 13 games since Southgate took the reigns last October, with the uncapped quartet of Jordan Pickford, Joe Gomez, Jack Cork and Abraham also in the current squad.
And the rapid evolution of the national side could speed up again for next week's clash with Brazil, with Demarai Gray, Dominic Solanke and Dominic Calvert-Lewin all in line to be promoted from the under-21s in time for Tuesday's meeting with Brazil.
The Young Lions are on duty in Ukraine on Friday but Southgate will look to them to bolster his injury-hit side rather than recall axed stars including Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Daniel Sturridge or Jermain Defoe.
As for Loftus-Cheek, Southgate knows the 6-foot-3 player well from his time as England Under-21 coach and said: "He's always been the biggest kid in the playground, but he's not a player who's survived on physical strength.
"He has great technical quality, dribbling ability, power, I think he's a really exciting player.
"He's quite a quiet lad, so I'm hoping he gets a lift in confidence from how we see him, the level we think he's capable of.''
Loftus-Cheek is expected to play in an advanced central position against the Germans, possibly behind a striker in a 3-4-2-1 set-up, rather than the wide role he has recently taken up for the Eagles.
"I saw [Palace manager] Roy Hodgson a couple of days ago, he knows that's not his best position but he's got to do a job for the team and that won't do Ruben any harm, to be have the discipline defensively,'' added Southgate.
Loftus-Cheek, meanwhile, revealed he had "a vision'' in the summer that he had to seek a new challenge away from his childhood club. Leaving the defending champions for a side battling relegation was a risk, but one that is paying dividends already.
"I had a vision and it became quite strong that I wanted to go from Chelsea,'' he said.
"I felt like I needed to play a lot, so I came in and said I wanted to go away from Chelsea and play games. So we came to an agreement.
"You can only improve so much in training. Games and training are completely different. So for me to get to that next level I needed to play regular football.
"I thought it was the best decision to go from Chelsea to play and develop myself which looks like being a good thing.''
Loftus-Cheek has frequently been cast as the individual whose progress will damn or justify the entire Chelsea Academy, but he tries not to focus on such a burden.
"I didn't see it that way, I didn't want to put all that pressure on myself,'' he said.
"I need to work hard and not be treated as the player to 'do it' but the player who deserves it.''
England's World Cup-winning Under-17s will be presented at Wembley before the Germany game, bringing their recently-acquired silverware with them.
Southgate does not expect to hand any of those players a shock Theo Walcott-style call-up for Russia, but made it clear the likes of Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho and Rhian Brewster are already in his thoughts.
"I don't think we should rule anything out with young players,'' he said. "The rate at which they can improve is huge. I think it will come down to game time with the clubs. There's a difference between being the best in your age group, against lads that are physically the same as you, and experience-wise the same, but they have great opportunities to step up in the next couple of years.
"As with all the young ones it's a case of assessing when is the right time to blood them and bring them in.''
Meanwhile, Southgate has reignited the case for a winter break in England, suggesting the current schedule hinders both the national side and clubs' Champions League ambitions.
Southgate said he is concerned about burnout and injury, factors he believes may hurt Premier League teams in Europe too.
"The period some of the clubs have had is incredible. When I have looked at it more and more, the winter break is crucial,'' he said.
"If we are looking at the fans being able to see the best players I am wondering what that will look like as the clubs go into the second half of the season.
"I think our clubs will be disadvantaged in the latter stages of the European competitions because if I look at Spurs' schedule, for example, I think it was Real Madrid, Liverpool, League Cup, Manchester United away, Real Madrid again.
"I think with the other clubs around Europe, there is clear evidence after the winter break there is reduced injury levels, the niggles you play with have a chance to clear up and you get the best players on the field.''
Southgate joins a long line of England bosses to broach a subject that has never gained sufficient traction to get off the ground -- with fans and broadcasters seemingly unwilling to sacrifice their festive fixtures.
His chances of success do not appear materially better than his predecessors but he is prepared to make the case.
"I think it is a conversation that, as an organisation, we [the Football Association] would have,'' he said.
"A lot of big clubs are supportive of that stance. The reality is with a lot of the deals that are in place it is not something that is going to happen in the next couple of years. I think I can highlight the problem -- it is for others to get on with it.''