Eriksson weighs up his options as ankle injury threatens Owen's availability once again

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The Independent Football

Sven Goran Eriksson is in danger of having to plan for life without Michael Owen for the second consecutive England game.

Owen became a major doubt for next weekend's friendly against Denmark after missing Liverpool's game against Manchester United yesterday due to an ankle injury which has been affecting him recently.

He will be assessed further by the Liverpool medical staff over the next couple of days, with England not due to meet up until Thursday.

However, while Eriksson will be keen to have his first-choice striker available as he starts to plan for the Euro 2004 finals, he will not be prepared to take any risks over his fitness.

The Liverpool manager, Gérard Houllier, said: "Michael could feel his ankle again and decided not to take part against Manchester United. I don't think he can take part in the international game either."

Eriksson was similarly concerned but refused to rule anything out. "I don't know much about it yet," he said. "I know Michael had problems so we will speak and he's probably out, but I haven't had it confirmed yet."

Owen was also missing last month in Turkey, where Emile Heskey and Wayne Rooney were selected in his absence and while England produced a battling display, they still failed to score.

Eriksson may again decide to select Heskey and Rooney against Denmark, although neither striker is exactly in peak form at the moment.

His other options are likely to include Darius Vassell and James Beattie, while he has previously spoken highly of the promise of Shola Ameobi and Jermain Defoe.

Injuries are also likely to affect the make-up of the England midfield, with at least three players likely to be missing when Eriksson names his latest squad today.

Paul Scholes, Kieron Dyer and Owen Hargreaves are expected to be ruled out through injury, along with the centre-back Jonathan Woodgate, while Rio Ferdinand will not be picked as he awaits his hearing for failing to take a drugs test.

The numerous absences could therefore open the path for the Charlton midfielder Scott Parker to earn his second senior international call-up.

But Parker's fitness is also in doubt after Saturday's game against Fulham, while Newcastle's Jermaine Jenas remains another option.

In defence, meanwhile, the England coach could experiment by utilising Chelsea's 19-year-old full-back Glen Johnson, who has made an impressive breakthrough since his move from West Ham.

Eriksson already has several candidates for the right-back position, although Danny Mills's spot is under serious threat, while Gary and Phil Neville are both known quantities.

* Charlton extended their lead at the top of the FA Nationwide Women's Premier League after an emphatic 4-1 victory at struggling Tranmere.

Second-placed Fulham were in cup action this weekend and Charlton took full advantage. Goals from Jessica Smith and Fara Williams in the opening 21 minutes gave the visitors a comfortable lead, and further strikes from Amanda Barr and Jo Broadhurst halfway through the second period wrapped up the points.