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50-50: Liverpool vs. Real Madrid

Champions League 4 hours ago
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By ESPN Staff
Sep 10, 2007

England's Gerrard fit to face Russia

England midfielder Steven Gerrard has declared himself fit for Wednesday's crunch Euro 2008 qualifier with Russia at Wembley after suffering no reaction to his broken toe.

Gerrard was substituted with 20 minutes remaining in Saturday's 3-0 win over Israel at the same venue.

But the Liverpool captain was only suffering from a bout of cramp caused by his lack of recent training after picking up the toe problem three weeks ago.

Gerrard said: 'The toe is fine. There is no reaction. I'm fit for Wednesday no problem. I am really pleased with how the toe is feeling at the moment.'

Reds boss Rafael Benitez has been in close contact with Gerrard to assess his fitness.

Gerrard said: 'I've been in dialogue with Rafa (Benitez) all week. He has been asking how the toe is but he also congratulated us on the win and the performance against Israel.

'He knows how much I want to play in Wednesday's game.'

England's main injury worry remains midfielder Owen Hargreaves and they will be hoping he can resume training this afternoon as he battles a thigh problem.

The Manchester United midfielder was not even named amongst the substitutes to face Israel when his replacement Gareth Barry impressed alongside Gerrard.

Gerrard said: 'I think Steve [McClaren] has got a genuine selection headache but it is a good problem to have. I think the players he decided to play on Saturday have given him that headache.

'Gareth Barry played really well. I think our partnership was really effective considering we'd only trained twice together before the game. Gareth deserves credit for the way he played.

'I was also not surprised at all with the way Emile played. He is the type of player you want in your team. He works hard off the ball for the team and is a big physical presence.

'He has been out of the England picture for a long time but deserves credit for the way he performed on Saturday.

'The manager has got a difficult decision to make with Emile and Crouchy who is another quality target man. I am sure both of them are capable of doing the job for us on Wednesday.

'Shaun got his first competitive England goal and was chosen as man of the match and Micah did well and got his first goal for his country.

'I think the boss has got difficult decisions to make - but as a manager those are the sort of problems you want to have.

'We will have to wait and see what starting XI he goes with on Wednesday but, if I was a manager, that is the sort of headache I would want every game.'

Irrespective of his final XI against Russia, Gerrard believes England now do have strength in depth in all positions in the squad which will stand them in good stead for the future.

He said: 'The team came together by chance because of the players that were out but I think that goes to show the strength in depth we have got.

'Michael Carrick, who is Manchester United's main midfielder, never even played.

'We've definitely got quality to come in if there are injuries and suspensions in the future and it is a good sign that the players who are coming in are ready to play well for their country.

'Is this the start of a new England team emerging? As a player you are certainly hoping so. You've got to go out and prove that. There is no point in me sitting here staying `that is the turning point' and that we are going to play great in the future.

'We've got to go out and prove that but Saturday was certainly a positive performance, an improvement on some of the performances of late. It was a 3-0 win with some really good individual performances but the pleasing thing for me was the team performance.

'I think we created a lot of chances, we defended well against a decent team - but we also understand Wednesday night is going to be a lot more difficult.'

Gerrard believes the presence of Michael Owen could be crucial against Russia after he confirmed his return to sharpness with a superb goal against Israel.

Owen has often been the player to grab the vital goal in the sort of tight match expected against the Russians whose defence has only been breached once in eight qualifying matches.

Gerrard said: 'I've played with Michael for a long time now and I know what he is all about. If he gets chances, he will score goals.

'He scored the most difficult chance he got on Saturday, which was a world-class strike, but going into these games like Russia, you want Michael Owen in your side.

'You know it is going to be close and maybe that one half chance might settle it. If he gets that half chance, Michael is capable of taking it.'