Football: Hoddle asked to help Anfield

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The Independent Online
LIVERPOOL COULD ask the England manager, Glenn Hoddle, to spare Steve McManaman from international duty when he names his European Championship squad to face Bulgaria.

McManaman was selected for the squad that lost to Sweden but was sent home before the party left for Stockholm because of his Achilles problem. He is likely to be named by Hoddle tomorrow for the Wembley match on 10 October but Liverpool, who were forced to leave him out of the Uefa Cup tie against Kosice on Tuesday, fear that the 26 year-old will not be fit to face Chelsea at Anfield on Sunday.

That will leave them with a dilemma. Liverpool believe that McManaman needs two to three weeks' rest to get over the injury, and they will hope that Hoddle will accept the situation and agree to the player staying on Merseyside for more treatment.

Liverpool are mindful of the uproar caused two summers ago when they withdrew Robbie Fowler and McManaman from England duty, but hope that, if they decide McManaman needs rest, then the England authorities will accept their decision.

The Anfield club's joint manager, Roy Evans, said: "If we feel that missing the Chelsea game might be the answer, so be it. We are looking to England to be sympathetic. They know all about his injury, because he picked it up on the hard grounds in France.

"We admire Macca's attitude that he wants to play every game, but if he did it might effect him in the long term, and our first concern has to be about him."

The McManaman situation is not the only worry thrown up following the 8-0 aggregate success over the Slovakian champions. Evans and his co-manager, Gerard Houllier, must decide who plays in goal against Chelsea, and the construction of their much-maligned defence.

On Tuesday, David James played his first senior game since February in place of Brad Friedel, who had a match to forget in the 2-0 defeat at Manchester United last week. They also gave Dominic Matteo and Vegard Heggem their chance to impress in the second half against Kosice.

Houllier claimed no decision on the goalkeeping problem had been made. He said: "David James needs to play some games at a certain level, that's one reason why he was in. We've always said that we have two good goalkeepers and that means the goalkeeper that plays sometimes is the one who is the fittest or who needs a game, that is all.

"It's too early to say who will play against Chelsea, we will have to see. David did well, but he didn't have that much to do out there."

Evans agreed. "There was a chance for David to play in the first team, and he did well. He didn't have that much to do, but he made a couple of fine saves near the end. But every game is under review, Brad has admitted that he had an uncertain 20 minutes at Old Trafford, but apart from that he's not done a lot wrong."

Karlheinz Riedle is expected to have recovered from flu in time to be back in the squad to play Chelsea, and that leaves another problem of who to play up front now that Robbie Fowler has come back into the side with four goals since his recovery from injury.

Houllier said: "Robbie has been out for seven months, and we know we can be indulgent. He is aware he is fit enough but still needs sharpness."