Gareth Southgate has named Jordan Henderson and the uncapped Eddie Nketiah and Levi Colwill in his England squad for next month’s matches against Ukraine and Scotland.
Harry Maguire and Kalvin Phillips are also in the 26-man party despite not having played this season, but Raheem Sterling’s return to form has not been enough to earn a recall.
England play Ukraine in Poland on Saturday week in a World Cup qualifier before heading to Scotland for a friendly to mark 150 years of football’s oldest international rivalry.
Henderson’s selection was plunged into doubt when he left Liverpool for Saudi side Al-Ettifaq over the summer, with Southgate previously reluctant to pick players in less competitive overseas leagues.
“We’ve watched every game. The key as we move forward is going to be the physical intensity of the league, because of the heat as well, whether that is going to allow him to perform at the level we need,” said Southgate.
“Clearly the level of the league is changing all the time, lots of countries are going to have this issue. Portugal have got a few players there so I’m sure they are going to be playing international football still.”
Arsenal striker Nketiah, 24, has forced his way in with two goals in three games so far this term, while defender Colwill, 20, has continued the impressive form he showed on loan last season now that he is back at Chelsea.
“Two young players who are doing very well,” said Southgate. “They have done well with our junior teams. Levi had time with us in the summer. I didn’t want to move away from our squads at Old Trafford [earlier this summer]. It’s only been three games into the season.”
That partly explains the omission of Sterling, who has looked revitalised under new Chelsea manager Mauricio Pochettino, scoring twice against Luton last weekend.
“He was not available for the last two [games] and of course that has given other people the opportunity to play well and establish themselves in the group,” said Southgate.
“It is a difficult call and Raheem isn’t particularly happy about it. I’m convinced he will have a good season at Chelsea, I’ve no doubt about that.”
England squad to play Ukraine (9 Sept) and Scotrland (12 Sept)
Goalkeepers: Sam Johnstone (Crystal Palace), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal)
Defenders: Ben Chilwell (Chelsea), Levi Colwill (Chelsea), Lewis Dunk (Brighton & Hove Albion), Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Fikayo Tomori (AC Milan), Kieran Trippier (Newcastle United), Kyle Walker (Manchester City)
Midfielders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Jude Bellingham (Real Madrid), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea), Jordan Henderson (Al-Ettifaq), Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City), Declan Rice (Arsenal)
Forwards: Eberechi Eze (Crystal Palace), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jack Grealish (Manchester City), Harry Kane (Bayern Munich), James Maddison (Tottenham Hotspur), Eddie Nketiah (Arsenal), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Callum Wilson (Newcastle United)