ENGLAND manager Roy Hodgson has played down talk of friction with Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers over Daniel Sturridge’s fitness after bowing to pressure to leave the striker out of his squad.
Sturridge was a notable absentee from Hodgson’s 21-man party for Euro 2016 qualifiers against San Marino and Estonia – which includes uncapped right-back Nathaniel Clyne and recalled duo Kieran Gibbs and Jonjo Shelvey – despite being in contention to return from a month-long injury for his club this weekend.
Rodgers says Hodgson agreed to rest a player now established as a guaranteed international starter “irrespective” of whether he played against West Brom tomorrow, and the England boss insists they are in agreement, though he indicated he did not expect Sturridge to face the Baggies.
“That’s a great blow for us and it’s been a big blow for Liverpool, of course, and it will continue to be,” Hodgson said.
“It’s also a blow for the player because he was very anxious to be a part of these two games, but unfortunately injuries happen and we all accept it so there are no problems or conflict there at all.”
Sturridge’s absence is likely to see in-form Danny Welbeck, who scored two in Switzerland last month and netted a midweek hat-trick for Arsenal against Galatasaray, start alongside Wayne Rooney in attack, while Southampton’s Clyne will rival Everton youngster John Stones for the right-back slot, in the continued absence of Glen Johnson, Phil Jones and Kyle Walker.
Gunners left-back Gibbs, 25, is vying with Leighton Baines for a fourth cap almost a year after his last, while Swansea midfielder Shelvey, 22, is back in the England fold for the first time since 2012.
Young defenders Calum Chambers and Luke Shaw drop to the Under-21s, who face a vital play-off against Croatia, while West Brom striker Saido Berahino, tipped for a first senior call-up, is also in Gareth Southgate’s junior squad.
England face San Marino on Thursday at Wembley before travelling to Estonia on Sunday.
Goalkeepers: Fraser Forster, Ben Foster, Joe Hart; Defenders: Leighton Baines, Gary Cahill, Nathaniel Clyne, Kieran Gibbs, Phil Jagielka, John Stones; Midfielders: Fabian Delph, Jordan Henderson, Adam Lallana, James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jonjo Shelvey, Raheem Sterling, Andros Townsend, Jack Wilshere; Forwards: Rickie Lambert, Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck