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England face defensive crisis before crucial qualifying tie


Tosh
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According to the Times...

 

Steve McClaren?s preparations for the biggest match of his England reign were further hampered last night when he lost Wayne Bridge to a knee operation. With Ashley Cole already suspended for the Euro 2008 qualifying match in Israel and McClaren sweating on the health of many of his players, the head coach will spend the next week praying that nothing else goes wrong.

 

Bridge?s absence for at least three weeks, and possibly as many as six, is also a headache for José Mourinho. The Chelsea manager has cursed his club?s luck with injuries this season and he must hope that Cole stays fit as they enter the busiest weeks of the season.

 

But McClaren has the greater concerns. His plans had already been disrupted by the FA Cup sixth-round replays between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea, and Manchester United and Middlesbrough on Monday. With more than half his starting XI for the game against Israel, and at least a dozen squad members, involved in those matches, he has told the players not to gather until Tuesday lunch-time, a day later than originally scheduled.

 

The news that Bridge had a cartilage operation last night will force him to change his defensive plans. Jamie Carragher, the Liverpool centre half who has played left back before, is likely to be next in line. Phil Neville can also bring experience to that position but, unless he takes a big gamble with Leighton Baines, of Wigan Athletic, McClaren may rue the absence of a natural left-footed player.

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With the right-footed Aaron Lennon and Kieron Dyer competing to play on the left wing in Tel Aviv a week on Saturday, the coaching staff will have to work hard to ensure that the team do not show familiar imbalance. McClaren, who announces his squad on Friday for the qualifiers against Israel and Andorra four days later, has also lost Peter Crouch to a nose operation.

 

McClaren?s selection process was complicated by the arrest of Joey Barton yesterday, though it is understood that the latest controversy surrounding the Manchester City midfield player will not in itself preclude him from the squad.

 

The Football Association?s policy towards players facing criminal proceedings was reviewed after the furore surrounding Alan Smith four years ago when the striker, then at Leeds United, was banished from Sven-Göran Eriks-son?s squad for a friendly against Denmark hours after being called up because of his arrest for allegedly throwing a bottle at fans during a match.

 

The FA was also criticised for permitting Smith to be replaced by James Beattie, despite the striker?s drink-driving conviction, leading them to conclude that players should be excluded in the future only after being formally charged.

 

Barton is consequently available for selection, though his arrest will not help the cause of a player McClaren already considered to be a borderline candidate. The 24-year-old played for only 12 minutes on his debut against Spain last month and despite repairing his relationship with Frank Lampard, he has not made much of an impression in training.

 

McClaren will at least be able to count on the services of his captain, John Terry, who is expected to make his first appearance for Chelsea since being knocked out in the Carling Cup final, in tonight?s Barclays Premiership match away to Manchester City.

 

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OK, I understand how he might face a "wide midfield" crisis, or even a "striker shortage" but how the hell can SCS manage to come up with a defensive crisis. It's about the one thing where Ingurlund have what approaches a decent amount of cover. Carra, Woodgate, Rio?, Terry, Richards...

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