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Getting to know: England U21s

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

With England Under-21s hosting Germany at Vitality Stadium, afcb.co.uk picks out some of the Three Lions' key players.

Aidy Boothroyd’s side topped their qualifying group for the 2019 European Under-21 Championship, as did Germany, so this friendly will represent a good test ahead of the finals in Italy, which begin on 16 June.

Here are some of the key players to keep an eye out for…

THE BRICK WALL: DEAN HENDERSON

Taking over from Southampton goalkeeper Angus Gunn in the second half of England’s qualifying campaign, Henderson only conceded one goal in four games, including a 0-0 draw with Netherlands and a 2-0 win over Scotland.

On loan from Manchester United, the 22-year-old has been a mainstay between the sticks for Sheffield United this season, helping them compete in the title race towards the business end of the campaign.

Henderson enjoyed an outstanding spell of six consecutive clean sheets in the Championship between February and March and has played every minute of every league game so far this season.

HOLDING THE FORT: JONJOE KENNY AND DAEL FRY

One of the most recognisable names in the England defence due to his Premier League status, Jonjoe Kenny participated in seven of England’s ten qualifiers, profiting in no small part from fellow Scouser Trent Alexander Arnold being involved in the first-team setup.

At club level, the right-back has had sporadic game-time for Everton, with Seamus Coleman still the first-choice option for Marco Silva’s side.

Over in the Championship, Dael Fry has been a key part of a Middlesbrough side fighting for a place in the play-offs and Boro have conceded the fewest number of goals despite having lost their past three games.

Centre-back Fry has also showed versatility this season, occasionally being deployed at right-back as well as right midfield. In 2018, he was named in the Best XI of the Toulon Tournament.

MIDFIELD MAESTROS: TOM DAVIES AND KIERAN DOWELL

Liverpool-born Davies, much like Kenny, has found game-time relatively hard to come by in the Premier League for Everton of late, but his low-socks leadership mantra has seen him wear the captain’s armband on six occasions for the Toffees in 2018/19.

He was Everton’s Young Player of the Season in 2016/17 and his performances last season warranted his selection in the England U21s, a position in which he has thrived in an attacking 4-3-3 formation or 4-2-3-1.

Alongside him, another Everton midfielder (on loan at Sheffield United), Kieran Dowell, scored in England U21s’ final European Championship qualifier away to Scotland in October and managed ten goals from midfield for Nottingham Forest last season.

At Vitality Stadium, we expect to see the pairing of Davies and Dowell, although Manchester City’s Phil Foden could be rotated into the line-up.

FINDING THE NET: DOMINIC SOLANKE, TAMMY ABRAHAM AND DEMARAI GRAY

Goals have not been hard to come by for this England side, so much so we’ve picked out three forwards who have been flying for the Three Lions on international duty.

Our very own Dominic Solanke, who assisted Joshua King in the last goal AFC Bournemouth scored at Vitality Stadium, played his first game in Bournemouth when he came on as a substitute for the England U21s in a 3-0 win over Latvia in September 2017.

The Cherries striker is the current joint-top scorer for the U21s with Tammy Abraham, as they both have eight goals, but Abraham has played eight more games. Four of Solanke’s international goals for the U21s have come in his past two games (against Denmark and Italy).

At the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in 2017, Solanke won the Golden Ball award for best player in the tournament and lifted the World Cup trophy alongside AFC Bournemouth teammate Lewis Cook.

As for Abraham, the Aston Villa frontman (on loan from Chelsea) has been bagging goals for fun in the Championship this season, going into the international break with an impressive 21 in 31 league games for the club.

Back in the top tier, Premier League winner Demarai Gray has netted four times for the Foxes this season and boasts seven goals overall for England’s U21s, so expect to see any one of these three forwards poaching in the box!

Kick-off at Vitality Stadium is 7.45pm.

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