LUCKLESS England suffered further injury woe on the eve of their tricky Euro 2016 qualifier in Switzerland tonight after Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson limped out of training at St Jakob Park having sustained a knock to his right ankle.
Henderson is likely to be monitored before undergoing a fitness test ahead of the Group E clash in Basel, with England already without stricken striker Daniel Sturridge as well as a host of other crocked stars.
Arsenal frontman Danny Welbeck is likely to deputise for Sturridge after a lively substitute appearance against Norway last week while Manchester City midfielder James Milner is a possible candidate to replace Henderson.
England boss Roy Hodgson has been in cautious mood ahead of the Three Lions’ opening qualifier against his former charges, insisting the fixture is likely to provide an acid test for his new-look squad, with the performance every bit as important as the end result.
“I think it’s foolish to start saying that the only good result will be this, that or the other,” said Hodgson. “For me it’s about performance as well. I want to see how the players perform.
“This will be a big test for them and I want to see how they come up to speed on that test.
“But I do want the result and if you ask me what would you prefer, to play badly and win or to play well and lose, I’d play badly and win, I’m not different to anyone else in that respect.”
Hodgson guided Switzerland to Euro 96 during a three-year tenure between 1992 and 1995 and will envisage repeating the feat with England given two nations qualify automatically from a group also including Slovenia, Estonia, Lithuania and San Marino.
England arguably face their toughest fixture of the qualification process tonight and head into the match without the likes of Adam Lallana, Ross Barkley, Glen Johnson, Chris Smalling and Theo Walcott in their squad, already depleted by the withdrawals of goalkeeper Ben Foster and Jack Colback as well as Sturridge.
Despite overseeing a dismal World Cup in Brazil, where Switzerland outshone England and made the last 16 before falling to finalists Argentina, Hodgson is adamant there is tangible cause for future optimism.
“I think there are lots of reasons to be cheerful if you’re able to put the fact behind you that the World Cup was a major disappointment,” he added. “The players have talent and quality and a desire to do well for their country and we also have 10 players who are not here, who would play.”
STATS AND FACTS ON ENGLAND’S OPPONENTS
HISTORY POINTS TO ENGLAND WIN
England have a favourable record against tonight’s opponents having recorded 13 wins to Switzerland’s three, with five draws. England won their last trip to face the Swiss, a 3-1 success in a Euro 2012 qualifier. Wayne Rooney brushed aside speculation over his private life to open the scoring before victory was sealed thanks to strikes from forgotten duo Adam Johnson and Darren Bent after Xherdan Shaqiri had given the Schweizer Nati hope.
BRAZIL WAS NO SWISS NIGHTMARE
Switzerland are managed by former Lazio manager Vladimir Petkovic, who succeeded the retiring Ottmar Hitzfeld after this summer’s World Cup. The Swiss eclipsed England’s dismal effort in Brazil, reaching the last 16 after group stage victories against Ecuador and Honduras.
FAMILIAR FACES IN THE RIVAL CAMP
The Three Lions will come up against some familiar faces tonight. Philippe Senderos is currently at Aston Villa while Johan Djorou spent a decade at Arsenal. The names Valon Behrami and Pajtim Kasami will resonate with fans of West Ham United and Fulham while Gelson Fernandes had a spell at Manchester City.
HODGSON’S SWITZERLAND TENURE
Roy Hodgson enjoyed a three-year spell in charge of Switzerland between 1992 and 1995 before leaving to take charge of Inter Milan. During this period Switzerland reached third in the world rankings, their highest ever placing. In total, Hodgson was in charge for 16 games, winning six, drawing three and losing seven, reaching the last 16 of the 1994 World Cup and qualifying for Euro 96.