Gerrard ruled out of England friendly

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The Independent Football

Steven Gerrard has pulled out of the England squad for tomorrow night's friendly with Holland in Amsterdam.

The Liverpool skipper trained yesterday but felt a slight soreness in his groin and has withdrawn as a precaution.

The remainder of Fabio Capello's squad was able to make the short flight to the Netherlands, where they will be put through their paces at the Amsterdam Arena tonight.

Goalkeeper Ben Foster has already been replaced by Joe Hart after hurting his knee in Manchester United's Community Shield defeat to Chelsea on Sunday.

Coming just four days ahead of his side's opening Premier League fixture at Tottenham, Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez will no doubt welcome the decision to adopt a cautious stance over Gerrard's fitness.

The midfielder is a key component of the Reds' attempts to end a 19-year league title drought.

However, his injury record is patchy and Gerrard has been plagued by muscular problems in the past.

Benitez will desperately hope to have his talisman available at White Hart Lane, especially as he also has defensive problems with doubts over Jamie Carragher, Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel.

The same sentiment might also be expressed by Sir Alex Ferguson in relation to Foster given Edwin van der Sar is missing until the end of September with broken fingers.

If anything, Foster's injury record is even worse than Gerrard's and there must now be serious doubts over the former Stoke man's chances of forcing his way into Capello's thoughts as potential number one at the World Cup in South Africa as Ferguson has predicted.

Hart's recall was an obvious move given the youngster won a full cap in Trinidad last year and was a regular member of the England squad until Shay Given arrived from Newcastle to take his place at Manchester City.

Now on loan at Birmingham, Hart is at least guaranteed to start the new season as a Premier League regular.

It is little wonder though that talk is once again surfacing about the availability of Manuel Almunia.

The Arsenal keeper is now eligible to play for England on residency grounds and there are some who think the Spain-born star should be catapulted over the current crop, including Robert Green, who is set to make his third consecutive appearance tomorrow.

Such a move would be highly controversial given Almunia's Spanish roots. And even the 32-year-old accepts it would be fraught with problems.

"Theo [Walcott] sometimes asks me if I will take the citizenship and I say: 'Yes, if you want?' Then he says, yes, he would like me to," Almunia told the Guardian.

"But all the England players are very important. I would like to know what they think and if I will be welcome.

"It is not an easy decision. I am 32 so I don't want any problems with anyone. This is not a silly thing. You are playing with the hearts of people. It [an England cap] is not something you can buy in a shop."