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Weekend Premier League predictions

Premier League
By ESPN Staff

McClaren keen to abandon meaningless friendlies

Steve McClaren has confirmed he could abandon some England friendlies and replace them with training camps.

Although the Football Association are committed to playing 18 friendlies over the course of the four-year television deal which comes into effect following Euro 2008, there is enough flexibility within the contract for England not to have to play every time a date is available.

In the aftermath of last week's debacle against Spain, McClaren's assistant Terry Venables suggested it would be better for England not to play friendlies and instead push themselves through three meaningful training sessions.

With the new Wembley Stadium to pay for, there is no chance of the FA abandoning friendlies en masse. Instead, McClaren will pick his way through the fixture calendar in an attempt to ensure every England game retains some meaning.

'The key thing for me is getting more time with the players,' outlined the England coach.

'If more time means having get-togethers with no end result and we achieve something, yes, I would like that. But I want the flexibility to be able to control when we have friendlies and when we have get-togethers.

'The Greece friendly in August was a good one - and we needed a reaction in Holland in November, so it was important to get our best players available on that occasion.

'Maybe this one came at a bad time. We ended up using it as an experiment, because we didn't have seven or eight of our senior players.'

It could be argued McClaren contributed to his own downfall against Spain, given he reached an agreement with Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez for Steven Gerrard to feature for only 45 minutes.

In addition, McClaren discarded half-a-dozen players on fitness grounds - including Wayne Rooney, Wayne Bridge and Andrew Johnson who went on to play for their clubs at the weekend.

However, McClaren is adamant he made the right decision and is positive he will gain the benefits next month when England visit Israel, and then again in June when his side wrap up their season in Estonia.

'We have to look after the players,' he said.

'We know at this stage of the season players are carrying knocks, and it was my decision whether to play them or not.

'It was a very frustrating five days from naming the squad to reaching the day of the game.

'But we had to look at the bigger picture and not risk anyone at this stage - because we need them later on.

'Some of these lads will have played 60 games by the time we get to the end of the season. It is better to look after them now than it would be to suffer in the future.'