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Huge Market Mover: Has John Stones Finally Nailed Down His Spot at Euro 2021?

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Stones' topsy-turvy career goes up again

John Stones has endured somewhat of a rollercoaster career so far. Having been signed by Manchester City for almost £50m, expectations were high as he clearly is a very talented footballer. However, his City tenure hasn’t always been smooth sailing, with Stones often left out of the starting XI with the odd mistake when he did play.

It has looked like he’d been living on borrowed time at the Etihad, with Pep Guardiola often choosing to start midfielder Fernandinho instead of the English defender. This season has brought new life to Stones though, forming a formidable partnership alongside Ruben Dias that has seen City concede just one goal in 10 games when paired together and throw the club to the top of the table, if they win their game in hand.

Now, after three goals in two weeks and even more clean sheets, Stones hasn’t featured in an England side since November 2019 but now looks nailed on to be in the squad for the Euros, and perhaps even a starter. Let's take a look at how this affects England ahead of arguably their biggest tournament in 50 years.

Will we see the reemergence of a stellar 2018 partnership at Euro 2021?

The last time Stones made an appearance for England was during a 7-0 win over Montenegro, over a year ago. He has since found game time for both club and country hard to come by, with his place in the international setup occupied by the likes of Tyrone Mings and Conor Coady, who both hit form at some stage in the last 12 months.

The mental strength and determination of Stones has to be given huge credit, as it seemed like his City career was all but over at times. When Dias was brought in from Benfica in the summer, most assumed that this would be to partner Aymeric Laporte, who has been one of the finest centre backs in the league since joining the club in 2018.

However, Guardiola has been given no choice but to keep Laporte on the bench, as Stones has been so impressive that he has forced his way into the side and stayed there – he now makes up half of the best centre back pairing in the league and one of the best in Europe.

ICYMI: Take a look at the centre-backs specials for England to see who is odds on to go to Euro 2021 right here!

As for who will drop out of the squad should Stones be recalled, Coady must be worried for his spot after his performances of late. Wolverhampton Wanderers have struggled this season and currently sit in 14th, far below the standard they have set for themselves in their first two seasons back in the Premier League.

Stones’ recall could mean a return to the back three that saw England reach the World Cup semi-finals in 2018, alongside Harry Maguire and club teammate Kyle Walker. It is looking more and more likely that Gareth Southgate will persist with his three at the back formation, but another possible partner for Stones would be Aston Villa’s Tyrone Mings. Mings has enjoyed an excellent season in his own right, as Villa have been one of the shocks of the season. The Villa defender also offers a left-footed option, adding balance to a back three. Another player who may be hoping to return to the England set up before the Euros is Liverpool’s Joe Gomez.

The 23-year-old has been out for most of this season with a serious knee injury, but should he be fit and available by the summer then this would provide Gareth Southgate with another defensive option. Gomez could play next to Stones in a back four, but the more likely outcome would be in the right of a back three, with Kyle Walker making way.

It does seem, however, that the partnership that did so well in Russia three years ago, could end up lining up once more at Euro 2021, as Stones, Maguire and Walker look set to be the men at the back for Southgate.

Can England's In-Form Defenders Make the Difference in the Summer?

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England to win Euro 2021 @ 9/2

Can England's defensive improvements get throw them into the promised land?

Of course, players being in-form in the run-up to a major tournament is always going to be a massive boost to Gareth Southgate and to the team's chances of performing well. England boasts some of the finest attackers in the country and in Europe, but defensively, they have not been as assured as other nations out there.

Harry Maguire has been incredible at times for Manchester United and has been a huge part of their recent form that has seen them rocket to the top of the league, but having someone next to him such as Stones, who is arguably playing the best football of his career, will give Maguire and the whole team an extra confidence boost.

England are currently the favourites to win Euro 2021 this summer at 9/2 and having in form players such as Stones amongst the ranks will give them an even bigger chance of winning their first tournament in over 50 years.

By Luke Feather