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
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory