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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

50-50 Challenge
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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

50-50 Challenge
Read
By ESPN Staff

Lampard 'very doubtful' for England qualifiers

England manager Steve McClaren has conceded Frank Lampard is 'very doubtful' for the forthcoming Euro 2008 qualifiers.

Midfielder Lampard sustained a thigh injury on Friday in training with Chelsea, prompting speculation he could be ruled out for the rest of this month.

That would see Lampard miss the qualifying matches against Israel on September 8 and Russia four days later at Wembley.

'He's had a scan and our medical people are liaising with those at Chelsea, and then we'll assess the situation tomorrow,' revealed McClaren.

'We will see how severe it is, but it's looking very doubtful at the moment.'

That would appear to force greater emphasis on the need for Steven Gerrard to play, despite the fact he is recovering from a broken toe sustained in a Champions League qualifier against Toulouse.

Gerrard did not figure in Liverpool's 6-0 Barclays Premier League thrashing of Derby at Anfield yesterday, instead watching the game from the stands along with Jamie Carragher.

It was the third game in a week Gerrard had missed, and while Reds boss Rafael Benitez would prefer his captain not to play for England, it is becoming increasingly likely he will.

'I've spoken to Stevie and we are liaising with Liverpool,' added McClaren on BBC Radio 5 Live.

'We're not going to take any risks over him, but he wants to play and we want him to play for the two games.

'He's making good progress. We will assess him again during the week, but I fully expect him to be available for the two games.'

While McClaren understands Liverpool's position, he is certain there is nothing Gerrard wants more than to play if he proves his fitness.

'We go out of our way to help clubs in certain situations, certainly in friendly games,' added McClaren.

'But these are big games, important games we need to win, and we need our best players available, and if it is at all possible they can be available, then they should be.

'Of course, a lot of emphasis is on the players. Yes, the clubs can demand this and demand the other.

'But a lot of pressure can be put on by the player and whether he wants to play.

'I know that Stevie Gerrard wants to be on the pitch playing for England in the next two games.'

McClaren, though, admits he would do the same were he in the Spaniard's shoes.

'It's normal club policy,' he said. 'I was a club manager (with Middlesbrough) and I would do exactly the same. You are protecting the player, the club, your assets.

'Ultimately the person involved in this is the player.

'In conjunction with everybody - our medical team, Liverpool's medical team, the two managers, and the player - we will come to a decision over Stevie G.

'I am confident he will play.'

McClaren insists there is 'no friction' between himself and Benitez regarding Gerrard, and is confident the situation will be resolved.

'Rafa knows how important this game is to England,' remarked McClaren

'In the past I've had no problems with managers. They've been pleased to release their players for England.

'It's a privilege and I don't expect any (problem) in this case.'

With no Wayne Rooney either, there is also added pressure on a fit-again Michael Owen to lead the line.

McClaren could not be happier Owen has returned to goalscoring form in the past few days, with two in his last two matches.

'I've watched him in the last couple of games, and he looks very sharp,' added McClaren

'He is going to be a massive player up front for us over the next two games.'

There have been suggestions Owen will be partnered in attack by Joe Cole for the game against Israel as Peter Crouch is suspended.

'That's one of the things we are looking at,' confirmed McClaren.

'But the loss of Frank has just changed my thoughts a bit, so we are looking at what partnership and system will get the best out of Michael Owen.

'It was very interesting to see yesterday he played with (Mark) Viduka.

'Then at half time (Shola) Ameobi came on - another big guy, a target man playing off him. It was interesting he had that during the week as well.

'So we're looking at different options. Unfortunately, we are missing Crouchy for this game, but we've got him for the second.

'So we're looking at the best permutations for Michael Owen, but also to score goals from other areas.'