Owen goes on the attack to defend under-fire Eriksson

A dead leg kept Owen, 25, out of Newcastle's draw with Portsmouth at the weekend, and left Eriksson facing the prospect of being without both his first-choice strikers given Wayne Rooney's suspension. However, Owen said that he was fit to play in the last two matches of England's campaign ­ against Austria and Poland ­ as the responsibility for scoring the goals falls to him on Saturday.

After naming Peter Crouch among the strikers in his squad on Sunday night, the smart money is on Eriksson returning to a 4-4-2 formation with the Liverpool striker in support of Owen in attack.

Crouch hopes to be given the chance to make his mark in what would be only his second start for his country. "There are a lot of good strikers in England but I'd like to think I'm a little bit different and can bring something different to the England set-up," he said.

Crouch and Owen have just two goals between them all season, but it was alongside Crouch that Owen scored the last three goals of his 32 for England when they partnered each other against Colombia in America in May.

Crouch could be Owen's ideal partner up front, but it is still unclear what Eriksson's central defensive pairing will be ­ although it is believed Sol Campbell is very close to being preferred to either Rio Ferdinand or John Terry.

"There has been a lot written about supposed disharmony in the dressing-room, but nothing could be further from the truth," Owen said. "This is a tight squad, with a firm belief both in ourselves and in Sven Goran Eriksson and the coaching staff. Team spirit will be important over the coming days. Rest assured, it is as strong as ever.

"The players are fully behind the manager. His record in competitive games is outstanding, and people seem to have forgotten that the defeat against Northern Ireland was his first in a qualifier in over four years. I've not changed my belief that he is the right man to lead us to Germany."

Before last weekend, Owen had scored on his previous two performances for Newcastle against Blackburn and Manchester City and had appeared to be recapturing the goalscoring form that had characterised his single season with Real Madrid. Against Northern Ireland last month, however, he had looked isolated in the 4-5-1 formation.

Owen had been suspended for the victory over Wales in Cardiff and, in the days leading up to the match against Northern Ireland, his return to the team was by no means guaranteed. England had settled into a 4-5-1 formation and Eriksson's subsequent alteration of it for the Belfast match ­ which involved moving Rooney into a left-wing berth ­ was a factor contributing to that defeat.

Owen said: "I have been impatient for these matches since the defeat to Northern Ireland. This is our chance to put things right. I can't wait to get on to the Old Trafford pitch and I'm sure the rest of the lads are the same.

"We know the performance was not acceptable. We are determined to react in the most positive way. We still have automatic qualification in our own hands, and two victories will see us in Germany next year."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss