Teams Poles apart as Hodgson ready to ring the changes
ROY HODGSON will demonstrate his ruthless streak by making up to six changes to his England line-up for tomorrow’s World Cup qualifying tie in Poland, despite seeing his hopes of recalling Frank Lampard dashed by his withdrawal with a calf injury.
The national manager will welcome back his captain, Steven Gerrard, and his first-choice right-back, Glen Johnson, the pair having missed Friday’s 5-0 victory over San Marino through suspension. The trio of players rested for that fixture as they were one yellow card away from suffering their own one-match ban – Joleon Lescott, James Milner and Jermain Defoe – are also likely to return to the side in Warsaw while Ashley Cole is expected to earn his 99th cap at left-back at the expense of Leighton Baines.
Their inclusion would leave only five survivors from the game at Wembley, where England moved three points ahead of Montenegro and Poland at the top of Group H.
The manager had indicated in the build-up to the San Marino fixture that his selection for that game would be made with Poland in mind as he sought to ensure his side will be fresh and free of suspensions for one of the more awkward fixtures in the section.
The absence of Lampard, who might also have started the game in the national stadium, still represents a blow. The 34-year-old had returned to Chelsea on Thursday to undergo treatment on a minor calf injury, having initially been discomforted earlier in the week with a knee complaint.
As well as Lampard being ruled out, Ryan Bertrand, who had been laid low with a virus, has also been left behind in England.
The Premier League leaders will hope to have both available for the awkward trip to Tottenham on Saturday.
That will leave Hodgson travelling east with a party of 23 players, with Theo Walcott also ruled out after bruising a lung early in the victory over San Marino. The Arsenal forward was clattered by the San Marino goalkeeper, Aldo Junior Simoncini, and spent Friday night in hospital after coughing up blood and before being released on Saturday afternoon.
His Arsenal club-mate Carl Jenkinson trained with England at London Colney yesterday to gain experience with the senior squad but will not travel to Warsaw.
Cole, whose wait to secure a century of caps is likely to be extended into 2013, is expected to return despite Baines having started all four of England’s games this season and with his reputation bolstered by excellent form for Everton. “You’ve got Cole on 98 caps, a fantastic left-back, and then you’ve got the in-form player in the Premier League in Leighton Baines,” said Phil Jagielka. “I think I’d be spinning a coin, heads or tails. I’m glad I don’t have to make that decision.”
GROUP F: Northern Ireland boss Michael O’Neill faces a difficult job piecing together a side to stop Ronaldo, and his illustrious team-mates at Porto’s Dragao Stadium, having lost six players from his original squad.
Alex Bruce and Grant McCann were the latest to withdraw due to injury, leaving O’Neill light on the right side of defence and left midfield.
GROUP A: Wales today confirmed Wolves’ Dave Edwards will replace Aaron Ramsey in the squad for Tuesday’s match in Croatia.
Arsenal midfielder Ramsey picked up a yellow card during Friday’s match, his second of the campaign, meaning he must serve a one-match suspension.
Meanwhile, Cardiff’s Don Cowie has been called into the squad ahead of the game against Belgium in Brussels to replace fellow midfielder Scott Brown, the Scottish Football Association have confirmed.
The Celtic skipper has been troubled with an ongoing hip problem this season and was forced to withdraw at half-time on Friday night against Wales.
Brown also missed last month’s double-header against Serbia and Macedonia with the problem and has also sat out games for Celtic.