England's fears grow over Ferdinand injury

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Rio Ferdinand is continuing to work on his fitness but England are concerned that he could yet miss England's Euro 2004 qualifying match against Slovakia next month.

The centre-back, who had his troublesome knee scanned before playing against South Africa, remains England's biggest injury worry, particularly as there is little cover in defence. His absence would leave Gareth Southgate to man the centre of defence alongside a player with little or no international experience.

It looks likely that the Manchester United defender will not be fit to face Serbia and Montenegro in the next warm-up match on Tuesday at Leicester, and if England's coaches think he has little chance of playing in that game or against Slovakia at the Riverside on 11 June, then he may be sent back to Old Trafford for treatment when the squad returns from England's training camp in La Manga, Spain.

Ferdinand, who aggravated his injury in the first half on Thursday, has spent the last two days working in the gym, and he was able to join John Terry and Wayne Rooney in working with the England physiotherapist, Gary Lewin, yesterday morning. But he has so far been unable to work with Sven-Goran Eriksson's squad.

In the second half against South Africa his place alongside Southgate was taken by the debutant Matthew Upson, who performed well as England edged to victory. However, Upson's lack of experience has left Eriksson facing a selection problem with Sol Campbell already ruled out and Terry struggling with a thigh problem.

Eriksson was dealt a further injury blow yesterday when Trevor Sinclair suffered a dead leg in training. The West Ham midfielder has emerged as favourite to occupy the left side against Slovakia. While the injury could hamper him for several days, it is "not serious", according to a Football Association spokesman, Adrian Bevington.

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