Declan Rice feels ‘safe’ with Conor Gallagher by his side in England midfield

PA Ready, Declan Rice, Slovenia, Conor Gallagher, England, Rice, Harry Kane, Serbia, Denmark, Cologne, Germany, Liverpool, Bournemouth, Premier League, John Stones

England’s Declan Rice (left) and England’s Conor Gallagher during the friendly against Brazil. (Mike Egerton/PA) (PA Wire)

Declan Rice is ready to rekindle his midfield partnership with Conor Gallagher as the pair look set to start for England against Slovenia in their final Euro 2024 group game.

England sit top of Group C and are already guaranteed a place in the last-16 but know victory in Cologne will see them advance in top spot.

That is despite plenty of criticism of their performances in Germany to date following a narrow win over Serbia and a 1-1 draw against Denmark last week.

Gareth Southgate named the same starting XI for both of those games, with Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold reverting to a central midfield role next to Rice.

Gallagher replaced Alexander-Arnold after 69 minutes against Serbia and just nine minutes into the second half of Thursday’s game in Frankfurt.

Numerous reports claim the Chelsea man is set to get the nod from the start against Slovenia as Southgate looks to tweak his team and improve performance.

Rice played alongside Gallagher during his youth career with the Blues and is looking forward to a potential partnership with England.

He works his socks off, you feel so secure and safe in there with him

Declan Rice on Conor Gallagher

“I have played with him at academy level, played against him at Palace and Chelsea,” he told 5Live’s Football Daily podcast.

“He is a team-mate I would love to have on my team, he works his socks off, you feel so secure and safe in there with him.

“I think he has surprised so many people this year with his ability on the ball, how he breaks forward with it, how he gets into the box, scores goals.

“I think he is a really positive player and he has come on so much over the past few years as well, you can really see that within himself how confident he is.

“Every time I get to play with Con, it hasn’t been much, I have really enjoyed it because I know him really well as a guy, I know his family really well and he is a lovely boy and it is another great chance to stamp our mark.”

Southgate has been keen to keep external criticism of England’s start at the Euros on the outside of his group.

A number of senior players have spoken to the media since the Denmark draw with the likes of Rice, John Stones and captain Harry Kane admitting the levels have not been high enough so far.

For Rice, though, he has been pleased with the reaction shown by the squad on the training pitch as England aim to finish Group C with seven points – the same number they recorded when they went on to reach the final of Euro 2020.

“The sign of a good team is when you don’t play well but don’t lose the game,” added the Arsenal midfielder.

“We have turned a page, we are ready for Slovenia, which is a fresh challenge. A challenge to top the group and have a positive feeling and a positive vibe going into the knockout rounds.”

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