England manager Gareth Southgate is to fly to Russia for a second Confederations Cup scouting trip this weekend in order to watch Germany and Chile in Sunday’s final in St Petersburg, sources have told ESPN FC.
Southgate, who has guided England to the top of their World Cup qualifying group since succeeding Sam Allardyce as manager last September, spent four days in Russia earlier this month, attending Confederations Cup games in Moscow, Kazan and Sochi.
The 46-year-old has been assessing potential opponents and off-field logistics ahead of next year’s World Cup, which also takes place in Russia.
Sources at the Football Association have told ESPN FC that Southgate regards this Confederations Cup as hugely valuable in terms of preparation for the World Cup, with his visit to Moscow last week confirming fears that traffic gridlock in the Russian capital makes it unsuitable as a potential base camp should England qualify for next year’s tournament.
With England considering the north-west city of St Petersburg as a possible base in 2018 — the FA are also one of more than 10 national associations interested in securing a base in or near the Black Sea city of Sochi — Southgate’s visit this weekend will enable him to assess the facilities, climate and infrastructure in Russia’s second city before finalising a preferred list of training bases.
One of Southgate’s primary concerns over the location of England’s potential base camp next summer is the distance between other venues.
St Petersburg is a three-hour flight to Sochi in the south of Russia and a similar journey time to Ekaterinburg, the most easterly city set to stage games at next year’s World Cup.
However, the number of top-class facilities in St Petersburg and proximity of Pulkovo International Airport to the city have placed it high on the FA’s list of possible base venues.
Mark Ogden is a senior football writer for ESPN FC. Follow him @MarkOgden_