Liverpool's Israeli winger Yossi Benayoun is out of his country's Euro 2008 qualifier against Russia on Saturday, an injury which has huge implications for England. The Israel captain underwent a scan on his groin yesterday and his club announced that he has sustained a tear that will take three weeks to heal.
Benayoun's injury will do nothing to encourage Steve McClaren that the Israeli team can take a point at least off Russia in Tel Aviv and give England a fighting chance against Croatia next Wednesday. Benayoun is regarded as Israel's best player and his absence will diminish his side's attacking presence considerably against Russia, who must win their last two games – their final game is against Andorra – to qualify ahead of England.
The injuries to Wayne Rooney and the long-term absence of John Terry have already meant major changes for McClaren but there were no further injury problems among the England players over the weekend. The Chelsea head coach Avram Grant confirmed that left-back Ashley Cole – not even on the bench against Everton – will be fit for England's forthcoming internationals.
"Chelsea has the best two left-backs in England [in Cole and Wayne Bridge], and Ashley Cole is fit for England," Grant said.
The team meet up tomorrow ahead of Friday's friendly against Austria in Vienna for what promises to be a long and potentially miserable build-up to the Croatia game at Wembley.
The future of McClaren beyond that Croatia game – should England fail to qualify – is still unclear but reports that his captain Terry has agreed to lead a delegation of players to the Football Association to argue for their manager staying in the job are understood to be wide of the mark. No such conversation has taken place between the England manager and his captain and such a move would be unprecedented.
Exactly who supports McClaren among the FA board members who will decide his fate is not known but for the time being he is thought to have the backing of powerful figures like Dave Richards, the Premier League chairman, and David Gill, the chief executive of Manchester United. There is a belief in some quarters that the FA could do worse than stick by their manager and back him to see out his contract that lasts until after the 2010 World Cup finals.
Among the England players hoping to force their way into the reckoning are the Spurs trio Jermaine Jenas, Aaron Lennon and Darren Bent, and they did their chances no harm in the 4-0 win against Wigan yesterday. Jenas and Lennon were both on target in the first half at White Hart Lane to put Spurs in control at the interval. Bent came off the bench in the second half to complete the scoring and, perhaps, put himself back in McClaren's thinking.Reuse content