Owen loses fitness battle

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The Independent Football

Michael Owen has lost his fitness battle and will not play for England in Saturday's Euro 2004 qualifier against Turkey in Istanbul.

Owen's shin injury, sustained in Liverpool's 2–1 defeat against Arsenal, always appeared likely to rule him out of the Group Seven decider.

And although Owen joined up with the England squad on Tuesday he has had to concede defeat in his bid to be fit to face the Turks.

The FA spokesman Adrian Bevington said: "Michael Owen will not be travelling to Turkey with the team this afternoon. After receiving treatment from our medical staff – who have been in consultation with the medical team at Liverpool – over the past three days, it was felt that, despite Michael making excellent progress, he would not be fit for Saturday's game."

Owen left the team hotel this morning and will return to Liverpool for further treatment on the injury.

England coach Sven–Goran Eriksson was already without Rio Ferdinand, excluded from the squad by the Football Association after failing to turn up for a routine drugs test.

Eriksson had anticipated Owen's withdrawal by calling up Aston Villa striker Darius Vassell as cover.

Eriksson's striking options now are Emile Heskey, Wayne Rooney, James Beattie and Vassell.

Chelsea's John Terry is expected to partner Arsenal's Sol Campbell in central defence in the absence of Ferdinand.

England skipper David Beckham, who sustained a dead leg making his comeback from injury in Real Madrid's La Liga clash with Espanol, is expected to be fit.