In-form Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge and Cardiff City centre-back Steven Caulker have been ruled out of England’s World Cup qualifier against Moldova on Friday, manager Roy Hodgson revealed on Thursday.
Sturridge, 24, has scored the only goal in three successive games to send Liverpool to the top of the Premier League table, but he aggravated a groin injury in Sunday’s 1-0 win over Manchester United.
He will return to Liverpool for treatment, but Hodgson is hopeful that he will be able to join up with the squad for Tuesday’s trip to Ukraine in European qualifying Group H.
“[Sturridge] has worked hard at his treatment and the initial prognosis was that he wouldn’t be fit for either of them, but he didn’t accept that,” Hodgson told a press conference.
“He’s worked very hard and had the necessary treatment, but I think it will be touch and go.
“On Sunday evening we’ll have a training session before heading for Ukraine. If he passes it then he’ll be with us, otherwise then he’ll be staying with Liverpool.”
Caulker, 21, turned his ankle in training, but he had not been expected to start the game against Moldova.
“It’s not a serious matter, but it will keep him out of the game tomorrow night,” Hodgson said.
“It won’t keep him out of the Ukraine game. He’s expected to do some running tomorrow evening, but he won’t be on the bench tomorrow night.”
With Wayne Rooney also absent due to a head injury, Hodgson said that Southampton striker Rickie Lambert will make his first England start against Moldova, having scored on his debut against Scotland last month.
“I have picked the team and Rickie Lambert will start, yes,” Hodgson said in an interview with radio reporters.
“He deserves a chance. I can’t deny had Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge been available, it would have been harder for him to get a starting place, but I am more than happy to have a player of his calibre to start this game.”
Hodgson also hit out at criticism of Rooney for pulling out of the squad.
Rooney withdrew on Sunday after he suffered a nasty cut to his head following a collision with Phil Jones during a training session at Manchester United.
United manager David Moyes insisted it was a bad injury, but that did not stop some fans goading Rooney online, with some suggesting that he should follow the examples of former England stars Paul Ince and Terry Butcher, who responded to head wounds by applying a bandage and playing on.
“It saddens me, this type of thing, especially for a guy like Wayne Rooney. It was a horrific injury,” Hodgson said.
“From my conversations with David and Wayne, it was clear straight away that we were talking about a very serious injury.
“It was a horrendous cut so to suggest you can just put a bandage over it and go and play centre forward in two games at Wayne Rooney’s quality, it’s laughable really, and it’s a little bit saddening that in people’s desperation to say something, they complain about it.
“You wouldn’t find one doctor who would say Wayne Rooney could play in those two games.”