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By ESPN Staff

McClaren to overrule Rafa on Gerrard

England coach Steve McClaren has refused to rule out the possibility of defying Rafael Benitez over whether Steven Gerrard should have a pain-killing injection to play for his country against Israel on Saturday.

McClaren is in daily contact with Benitez and claims the Liverpool boss is 'relaxed' about England's handling of his captain.

However, Benitez has cautioned against Gerrard having a jab to get him through the weekend's vital Euro 2008 qualifier, claiming it took the 27-year-old `four or five days' to get over the one he had prior to his side's Premier League draw with Chelsea.

McClaren has assured Liverpool he will give Gerrard every chance to recover from the broken toe he sustained in Toulouse last month.

But at some point, a crucial telephone conversation between McClaren and Benitez will have to take place.

And, knowing how determined Gerrard is to play, a stance re-affirmed in a private chat with fans, and how important the midfielder is to his team, McClaren can give no assurances Benitez's word will be final.

'I will cross that bridge when I come to it,' said McClaren, when asked whether he would defy Benitez.

'We're leaving it as late as possible but we want Steven on the field and we want him ready to play.

'We will liaise with Liverpool and we will do nothing to put the player at risk. But we will also go a lot on how Steven feels and what he wants.'

In an ideal world, Gerrard would be able to play without medical assistance.

Yet, in this instance, McClaren indicated an injection would have no long-term implications, which ultimately will be the major factor in deciding which course of action to take.

'You look and in some cases, if there's no great risk, then fine,' said the England coach.

'John Terry and Frank Lampard had broken toes in pre-season and were taking injections and I have known it at club level where it would be just too painful to play (without the injection) but there's no risk of further injury if you have one.

'Steven played with an injection against Chelsea a few weeks ago and I am very, very confident he will be with us on Saturday.'

What McClaren cannot be certain of is whether, if Gerrard had an injection, it would rule him out of Wednesday's equally key home fixture with Russia.

The prospect of facing Guus Hiddink's men without Gerrard or Frank Lampard is not particularly appealing even though Gareth Barry, who stood in for Gerrard during a training session which also lacked Owen Hargreaves, impressed.

Yet there is a small glimmer of hope on the Lampard front. For, while the Chelsea midfielder seemed set to miss around three weeks after sustaining a thigh injury in training on Friday, it now appears the damage is not quite so serious.

Lampard has returned to his club for further treatment but it is not completely beyond the realms of possibility that when he returns on Saturday, his recovery may have advanced enough for him to remain with McClaren's squad.

'Frank is having intensive treatment with Chelsea and we have said he might have a chance of playing in the second game,' said McClaren.

'It is still a far-out possibility at this moment but he is doing everything he can to be available.'

Scott Carson, David James, Paul Robinson

Wes Brown, Ashley Cole, Rio Ferdinand, Phil Neville, Joleon Lescott, Micah Richards, Nicky Shorey, John Terry

Gareth Barry, David Bentley, Michael Carrick, Joe Cole, Stewart Downing, Steven Gerrard, Owen Hargreaves, Frank Lampard, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Ashley Young

Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe, Andrew Johnson, Michael Owen, Alan Smith, Emile Heskey