Manchester City’s Phil Foden was recalled to the England squad for the upcoming triple-header – but there was no room for Manchester United forward Mason Greenwood.
The pair made their debuts in September’s Group A2 opener against Iceland in Reykjavik, where they infuriated the Football Association by breaching UEFA’s strict bio-bubble rules by meeting girls at the team hotel.
Southgate would have sent the pair home even if they had not broken coronavirus protocols, with the England manager leaving them out of October’s matches as punishment.
Foden has since scored three times in six Premier League games and was recalled by Southgate as the Three Lions face the Republic of Ireland in a Wembley friendly next Thursday, before heading to Belgium and welcoming Iceland to London as their Nations League group reaches a conclusion.
Greenwood, however, remains out in the cold with the 19-year-old once again missing the cut.
There seemed to be space for Greenwood as in-form Southampton striker Danny Ings is out injured, but Southgate opted against replacing him with either Greenwood or Newcastle’s Callum Wilson.
Foden’s club-mate Raheem Sterling was given an expected recall having missed the previous month’s international break due to a small hamstring injury.
Other players who would have been pushing to be in contention but missed out include Aston Villa midfielder Ross Barkley and Manchester United’s left-back Luke Shaw.
Shaw’s Old Trafford team-mate Dean Henderson is the only uncapped player in Southgate’s 29-man squad with fellow goalkeeper Jordan Pickford selected despite his ongoing inconsistent form for Everton.
Harry Maguire and Reece James are included after the pair were sent off as England lost 1-0 at home to Denmark last time out.
England boss Southgate hopes the matches will offer another opportunity for players to impress.
“Clearly managing the three games is a challenge, the friendly gives us another opportunity to find out about people, which we have done over the past few months,” Southgate said at a press conference.
“Some of those players have really grasped the opportunity and are pushing for a place in the starting XI.
“We are trying to balance not too big a squad on matchdays, but equally some boys would not normally have the opportunity to be with us.
“It is a good experience for us, we will learn a lot about the players and there are some good games to look forward to.”
Referring to both the recall of Manchester City midfielder Foden and Greenwood not being included, the England boss said: “They don’t come as a pair, they are individual players with their own strengths and individual talents.
“We are looking at the balance of the squad positionally firstly. Phil has had a lot of football with his club most recently and Mason has had less game time with United.
“I have had a good chat with (United manager) Ole (Gunnar Solskjaer) about his development and I feel it is better for him to stay at the club at the moment, to develop over the next few months.
“But they are both available, there was no carryover from September, that is done. Both are available for selection and are going to be very good players.”
On Chelsea’s James, Southgate said: “Reece’s game is at a very high level, we were very impressed with the way he trained every day, with the way he took his opportunity as a sub and then with his performance against Denmark – I thought he was arguably our best player.
“We wanted to keep him with us, he has of course to learn from what happened at the end of that Denmark game, it is not acceptable and has cost him the opportunity to play in some of the qualifiers for us. But we were very impressed, as we have been with his club form.
“We think to be able to involve him in the game against Ireland is something we wanted to do.”
Southgate hopes the England matches can help lift spirits during a second national lockdown.
“I think (with) football generally, everybody has recognised the opportunity to provide entertainment for people, to show some signs that something close to normality can take place, to give hope to people really,” Southgate said.
“For me, when we talk about international friendlies, other sports call them Test matches, and that is what they are really. For the players who play in them, they are a massive moment for them and their families.
“For us, they are a great opportunity to learn and improve, so I am not really distinguishing between one (fixture) being more important than the other.
“Of course we have some experienced players who we don’t need to see that much of, and we have got to look at how much football all of our players across the board are playing.
“But in terms of the broader lockdown picture, we have huge sympathy with people who are not able to carry out their businesses at this time.
“We know how difficult that is for everybody as a nation. Again, we have got to recognise the privilege we have got to do our job.”