Raheem Sterling told he is still integral to World Cup plans

Raheem Sterling still integral to World Cup plans as Gareth Southgate pencils him in for England‘s tie with Belgium

has been assured he remains an integral part of England‘s World Cup plans during a heart to heart with manager Gareth Southgate.

Southgate has offered the Manchester City forward words of encouragement during a pep talk, telling the 23-year-old he still has a major role to play.

Sterling, who started the victory against , is set to make way for when England face Panama on Sunday afternoon.

Southgate‘s plan to draft Rashford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek — in place of the injured Dele Alli — into his team to face Panama was revealed by Sportsmail on Wednesday. 

The England manager has already pencilled in Sterling for a role against Belgium on Thursday.

But a goalscoring display from Rashford in Nizhny Novgorod would give Southgate plenty to ponder. He could also be faced with a dilemma in midfield against Belgium, with Alli winning his race to be fit for the clash in Kaliningrad next week. 

The midfielder has missed two days of full training after suffering a minor thigh strain against Tunisia.

Alli has been working away from the squad but is expected to be available for England‘s final group game, which is likely to decide the order of the top two places and who they face in the last 16.

Southgate told ITV Sport: ‘He is progressing well but he has not trained with the team yet. That is going to be tight for this game.‘

Ashley Young has won the race to play at left-wing back ahead of Danny Rose. Southgate, however, is keen to provide Rose with some game time against Panama to improve his match-fitness as he plots to draft him into his starting XI later in the tournament.