Hargreaves injury adds more woe for England

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The Independent Online

There was more midfield injury woe for Steve McClaren yesterday who is now concerned that Owen Hargreaves is a doubt after the Manchester United man missed most of England's training. A knee injury kept Hargreaves out of the start of the season for his club but it is a thigh problem that is troubling him now.

With Steven Gerrard contemplating a painkilling injection to get him through Saturday's game against Israel and Frank Lampard already out, the latest injury to Hargreaves is a blow. Having suffered a broken leg last September, and then tendinitis this season, Hargreaves was hoping that he would be fit to start his first international since the Andorra game in March.

While he frets over the form of Hargreaves, McClaren is keeping his options open in attack for Saturday's game against Israel and may even start with Andy Johnson alongside Michael Owen.

The Everton striker has been partnered with Owen in training this week and is clearly at the forefront of the England manager's mind for the Euro 2008 qualifier.

When Emile Heskey was recalled from the international wilderness at the weekend it seemed likely that the Wigan striker was set to partner Owen in attack.

However, McClaren is still toying with the idea of using Johnson despite the fact the Everton man could not break down Israel when he played alongside Wayne Rooney in Tel Aviv in March.

Gerrard's hairline fracture to a toe on his right foot continues to cause concern with McClaren himself inspecting the player's toe with the team doctor Leif Sward and physiotherapist Gary Lewin during a break in training.

There will be precious little chance for McClaren to see his team play in formation before Saturday. Hargreaves, speaking before the afternoon training session, said yesterday that he believed he would be fit.

"I hope so, I haven't played a Saturday-Wednesday yet, but we just have to see how it goes," the 26-year-old said. "It wasn't a problem for me before, so hopefully it won't be a problem now."

McClaren is set to tell his players the team on Friday morning and his refusal to back Paul Robinson early in the week suggests that he is minded to make a change.

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