England’s preparations for this week’s European Championship qualifiers against Montenegro and Kosovo have been disrupted by a bust-up between Raheem Sterling and Joe Gomez at St George’s Park.
Sportsmail has been told that the pair had to be separated by shocked team-mates following a physical confrontation on Monday after some banter about Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Manchester City the previous day got out of hand.
Sterling had clashed with Gomez towards the end of the dramatic top-of-the-table clash at Anfield on Sunday which left City nine points behind leaders Liverpool, and the bad blood appears to have spilled over after they reported for England duty the following day.
Raheem Sterling and Joe Gomez were involved in a bust-up once again during England training
The England team-mates clashed late on during Liverpool’s victory over Manchester City
What began as light-hearted ribbing about the result and their on-pitch row is understood to have degenerated into another physical confrontation, to the surprise of their team-mates and providing a real test of England’s team spirit.
The bust-up will provide another test of Gareth Southgate’s man-management skills ahead of a crucial week that could go a long way towards determining the challenge England will face at next summer’s European Championship.
England only need a point from two matches to qualify, but with Czech Republic just three points behind following last month’s surprise defeat in Prague one victory is required to ensure they win the group and book their place as top seeds.
Much of the success of Southgate’s reign has been down to his ability to foster team spirit from a tight-knit group of players, but that may now be tested by the intense rivalry between City and Liverpool.
Gomez chats with England manager Gareth Southgate on Monday at the St George’s Park base
Gomez arrives at St George’s Park on Monday following Liverpool’s win over their title rivals
Southgate was already planning to have a quiet word with James Madison after the Leicester midfield player opted to visit a casino during England’s surprise defeat to Czech Republic last month after he had withdrawn from the squad due to illness, and may now have to address the issue of discipline amongst his players.
The initial flare-up was triggered by Sterling’s attempt to take the ball off Gomez as he pushed forward down the left-wing. Gomez had only been introduced shortly earlier as an 87th-minute substitute, but bore the brunt of Sterling’s frustrations following a difficult afternoon in which he was well marshalled by another England team-mate, Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Sterling backed into Gomez, with the 6ft 2in Liverpool defender responding by giving him a push in the chest as he towered over his 5ft 7in opponent. The City winger responded by deliberately shoving into Gomez’s back with his shoulders after referee Michael Oliver had blown his whistle, which led James Milner to intervene by dragging his team-mate away from the incident.
England’s preparations for their matches against Montenegro and Kosovo have been disrupted