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England U21s -- Strength in depth

Tactics And Analysis 4 days ago
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Jun 11, 2014

Danny Welbeck sits out England training

Danny Welbeck is a doubt for England's FIFA World Cup opener against Italy on Saturday after suffering a thigh strain.

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- Danny Welbeck sat out England training on Wednesday to confirm reports that Manchester United forward has suffered an injury setback.

Welbeck suffered a thigh problem in Tuesday's closed-door session at the Urca military training base in Rio de Janeiro that is serving as England's HQ for their World Cup campaign.

Arsenal winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was also absent from a 15-minute session open to media as he continues his recovery from the medial knee ligament problem he suffered in last week's Miami warm-up draw with Ecuador.

The Guardian and Daily Telegraph reported in Wednesday's newspapers that Welbeck seemed to pull up with a hamstring problem on Tuesday. He was seen leaving the session with his thigh strapped after receiving treatment from physio Gary Lewin. Welbeck began two of England's three warm-up fixtures, the 3-0 win over Peru and the 0-0 draw with Honduras, playing on the left wing in both matches.

His expected absence could lead to Liverpool's Raheem Sterling being given the chance to start against Italy in Manaus on Saturday, a selection that coach Roy Hodgson did not rule out in his newspaper briefing on Tuesday. Sterling missed the Honduras friendly after being sent off after a clash with Ecuador's Antonio Valencia but has been impressing all observers in training.

"If you're asking me will I hide behind that, to not consider him, then no I won't because he's as fit as a flea and I'm pretty certain he hasn't forgotten how to play matches, either," said Hodgson. "It was unfortunate that he couldn't play against Honduras but I can tell you that Raheem Sterling is very much in the group of players I'm considering.

"If I select him, it won't be in my opinion a risk that he hasn't played so many minutes. And if I don't select him, it certainly won't be because he has only played 39 minutes. It will be because I prefer someone else. That's all I can tell you."

Oxlade-Chamberlain is expected by medics to recover from his knee injury in time for their second Group D game, against Uruguay on June 19.

The length of Welbeck's potential absence is not yet announced, and should he be ruled out of the tournament, none on the stand-by short-list of seven would look a direct replacement. With Glen Johnson struggling at right-back in the friendlies, Liverpool defender Jon Flanagan, who was part of the USA leg of the preliminaries, may be called in to bolster the squad's defensive unit rather than a well-stocked midfield and forward line.

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