We've not exactly been lucky have we? Roy Hodgson confirms Rickie Lambert will start against Moldova after Daniel Sturridge is ruled out of World Cup qualifier

The Liverpool forward has been the in-form player in the Premier League but Roy Hodgson has confirmed he will miss the match at Wembley with a thigh injury but could feature in Tuesday's clash in Ukraine

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The Independent Football

Daniel Sturridge has been ruled out of England’s World Cup qualifier against Moldova on Friday - with Rickie Lambert given the chance to impress.

Sturridge has made a blistering start to the new campaign, scoring five goals in four appearances including the winning goal in the 1-0 victory over Manchester United last Sunday, but he picked up a thigh injury that has kept him out of this week’s training with the national side.

Speaking to the press today, Hodgson bemoaned the situation.

"We've not exactly been lucky have we? Now there's Daniel and there was Wayne (Rooney) and two potential right-backs in Glen Johnson and Phil Jones, and before that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain," explained the England manager.

"So we have lost five players and a few weeks ago I was really banking on them.

"It's a great opportunity for the ones who maybe wouldn't have got a game had they been available.

"(Sturridge) has worked hard at his treatment and the initial prognosis was that he wouldn't be fit for either of them but he didn't accept that.

"He's worked very hard and had the necessary treatment but I think it will be touch and go.

"On Sunday evening we'll have a training session before heading for Ukraine. If he passes it then he'll be with us, otherwise then he'll be staying with Liverpool."

Hodgson revealed that Southampton striker Lambert would now start the game at Wembley.

"I have picked the team and Rickie Lambert will start, yes," Hodgson said in an interview with radio reporters.

"He deserves a chance. I can't deny had Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge had been available, it would have been harder for him to get a starting place but I am more than happy to have a player of his calibre to start this game."

Hodgson all but named the starting XI for the qualifier against Moldova.

Kyle Walker, Gary Cahill, Phil Jagielka and either Ashley Cole or Leighton Baines are expected to start in front of Joe Hart while Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Jack Wilshere will definitely play in midfield.

Hodgson confirmed that Arsenal's Theo Walcott and Manchester United forward Danny Welbeck will provide Lambert with assistance from the flanks.

The England manager remains hopeful that Sturridge will be fit for the crucial match against Ukraine on Tuesday, with the third-placed side sitting just a point behind England in Group H. Leaders Montenegro are currently two points ahead of the Three Lions, although they have played one more game than their two rivals.

Reds boss Brendan Rodgers had expressed his concern at Sturridge’s participation against Moldova, claiming that the England staff should do what’s right for Liverpool first when assessing the 24-year-old’s fitness.

Hodgson and his staff have now decided to release Sturridge so he can head back to his club to receive further treatment. The striker will be assessed on Sunday before the squad travel to Ukraine.

Sturridge had looked set to earn his seventh international cap before he picked up the injury, having been the in-form striker in the Premier League. Hodgson already knew that he would be without the injured Andy Carroll, who is yet to play a minute this season due to injury, while Wayne Rooney was ruled out when he suffered a nasty gash to his head in a training accident with Phil Jones.

Lambert will now start as the lone striker, with the Southampton frontman scoring with his first touch on his international debut against Scotland last month. Jermaine Defoe is the only other recognised striker in the squad.

Hodgson has also confirmed that defender Steven Caulker will not be available for Friday's match.

"Unfortunately, in training he turned his ankle. It's not a serious matter but it will keep him out of the game tomorrow night," explained Hodgson.

"It won't keep him out of the Ukraine game, he's expected to do some running tomorrow evening, but he won't be on the bench tomorrow night."

England can’t afford to drop points if they are to secure automatic qualification to next summer’s World Cup in Brazil. Only the group winners qualify immediately, with the eight best runners-up from the nine groups going into a play-off for the remaining four places.

As it stands, England would qualify for the play-offs, with their 12 points two more than the second-placed side with the lowest points – made up of three teams in France, Albania and Bulgaria – but Hodgson will be determined to qualify automatically, meaning wins against both Moldova and Ukraine are a must.

Hodgson then diplomatically suggested that, although the training-ground injuries were unfortunate and left him with limited options, they had spared him a selection headache.

"To be honest I think we've got too many players," he added. "We're only allowed 20 outfield players and three goalkeepers and with Caulker and Sturridge it would have been too many.

"So they've been kind enough to take the decision out of our hands."

A question asking whether the former Liverpool and Fulham boss would rotate his thin squad entirely before the trip to eastern Europe was given short shrift.

Home games against current leaders Montenegro and Poland complete England's World Cup campaign in October and Hodgson is treating each match with due deference.

"I think these four games are all important," he said.

"I don't subscribe to the theory that this is an easy one and then there's a difficult one, then you've got a fairly easy one and a fairly difficult one. I don't quantify games in that way.

"Moldova - after our initial victory over them, where we took them by surprise and had a very good win - have become very hard to beat and we know they're going to be hard to beat tomorrow night.

"I need my best players to do it."

Hodgson is, however, keen to avoid defeat in the remaining four games while targeting a minimum of three wins.

He added: "I would say 10 points as long we don't lose in Ukraine and we beat Montenegro.

"I think 10 points would see us mathematically certain. I'll leave the maths and statistics to you guys."

Having watched three Sturridge goals guide Liverpool to three consecutive 1-0 Premier League wins in the new season, England captain Steven Gerrard is especially disappointed his club colleague will miss out against Moldova.

"It's a shame for Daniel," the midfielder said.

"He's in form and I expected him to shine on the international stage as well so fingers crossed he can come back on Saturday evening and the injury's settled down so he's available for Tuesday.

"He certainly makes the squad a lot stronger.

"Tuesday will be a more difficult test but we're playing Moldova first and we've still got to be professional and put in a good performance.

"If we show the same attitude and professionalism as we did when we went away from home then we could be comfortable tomorrow night.

"It's a big week and we need as many points as possible."