Roy Hodgson has admitted that he is having profound doubts about whether he can continue pressing Scott Parker and Steven Gerrard into service at the heart of his England side, but suggested that he may be forced to do so.
Parker, 31, joined the England squad with an Achilles injury and Gerrard, 32, also now has to manage himself carefully between games. The Tottenham Hotspur player said that "with not a lot of cover in midfield" he and Gerrard "just have to keep going" in what he is already finding to be "a very intense tournament [with] conditions that are very difficult".
Hodgson, above, who was anxious to take Parker off when the midfielder initially rejected his attempts to do so against France, said that the Parker/Gerrard fitness issue was "the big question". But he has also provided an indication that his starting XI against Sweden in Kiev's Olympic Stadium on Friday will be the same as the one that drew 1-1 with France. i columnist Rafael Benitez said that Gerrard's routine between games was vital. "Outside the game he will be doing the right things," Benitez said. "After and before games, the right things."
With Gareth Barry, Frank Lampard and Jack Wilshere all missing, the only back-ups are the untested Jordan Henderson and Phil Jones, who has looked more comfortable in central defence.
Hodgson yesterday made no secret of the fact that this campaign is predicated on maintaining good progress until Wayne Rooney's return against Ukraine next Tuesday: "Our real ace in the hole, I think, should be Rooney, because he is very fit and raring to go. If he can play like Wayne Rooney, we're going to be a bit more difficult to beat, because you can only benefit from someone of his quality in your team."
There are already signs of division in the Swedish camp, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic understood to be dismayed by the unprofessionalism he perceived in his team-mates after the 2-1 defeat to Ukraine in the Olympic Stadium on Monday.
The Swedes' performance angered the Milan striker less than the fact that he saw some players waving to their wives and girlfriends in the stands in Kiev when they should have been going through a warm-down.Reuse content