Defensive fears as Cahill one of wounded Lions

Frank Dalleres
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ENGLAND’S first-choice defensive partnership of Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka sparked injury fears ahead of Saturday’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Slovenia by missing training yesterday.

Cahill and Jagielka were among five players who did not train at all, including left-back Leighton Baines and midfielders Andros Townsend and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

The absence of Roy Hodgson’s preferred centre-back pairing would leave England with just Manchester United’s Chris Smalling and Calum Chambers, who has played most of this season at right-back, as replacements. So bereft of alternatives is Hodgson that Newcastle defender Jamaal Lascelles was borrowed from the Under-21 squad for training.

Chambers himself was among five more players who also missed full training but instead took part in gym work, along with Arsenal colleagues Danny Welbeck and Kieran Gibbs, Everton’s Ross Barkley and uncapped West Brom striker Saido Berahino.

Cahill said his absence was down to “a minor hip thing”, adding that he hoped to train today and expected to be fit to face Slovenia at Wembley. The Chelsea player also hailed England’s new diamond midfield, which he cited as a factor in the team’s run of five consecutive clean sheets.

“It’s something that we’re really proud of, from the third game in the World Cup onwards,” he said. “Leading up to the World Cup we did well but the crunch games were the summer. We’ve come under a little bit of criticism so it was important we tightened that up.”

England exited the World Cup after losing to Italy and Uruguay, but have since not conceded against Costa Rica, Norway, Switzerland, San Marino and Estonia.