Jordan Henderson is expected to be given the nod when England get their World Cup campaign underway against Tunisia on Monday.
The Liverpool captain has been battling it out with Tottenham’s Eric Dier after the pair were informed by manager Gareth Southgate that only one of them would start in midfield.
Favourable opponents on paper in Tunisia and Panama logically grant Southgate the license to play with a greater attacking impetus, consequently dismissing the need for two holding players.
It remains to be seen whether that approach changes when England come up against a star-studded Belgium side, by which time both teams will hope to have qualified.
Henderson will start just behind Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard in his side’s opening game, according to Sky Sports sources.
Henderson enjoyed a far more productive domestic season than Dier, displaying the urgency and passing range ideally suited to Southgate’s desired swift transition from defence to attack.
He also represents the more forward-thinking option with the rhythm and self-belief to dictate the tempo of games on the back of a superb club campaign.
Dier himself alternated between midfield and defensive roles under Mauricio Pochettino last term, arguably leaving him less prepared to play with the responsibility as his side’s sole midfield anchor.
There is no place for Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold in the rumoured lineup, despite his stunning breakthrough season on Merseyside.
His expected absence will undoubtedly be less about him being ready and more to do with Kieran Trippier’s experience feeding Harry Kane as a wing-back for Tottenham.