Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Benitez on course for clash over Gerrard

Steve McClaren was last night warned to expect an anxious wait over the fitness of Steven Gerrard in advance of England’s crucial Euro 2008 qualifying matches against Israel and Russia, but, contrary to the cautious words of Rafael BenÍtez, the Liverpool captain firmly expects to be fit to play for his country.
BenÍtez, the Liverpool manager, revealed yesterday that Gerrard will play no part in the second leg of his team’s Champions League tie against Toulouse at Anfield tonight because of the fractured toe that he suffered in the first leg in France 13 days ago. BenÍtez also raised doubts about whether his captain would be fit to play at home to Derby County on Saturday or for England against Israel seven days later, but Gerrard, it emerged last night, expects to resume full training by Thursday and to prove his fitness against Derby before joining up with the national team next Monday.
Nevertheless, BenÍtez’s words yesterday will at least give McClaren some concern as he prepares to announce his squad on Friday for the two matches. The England head coach is already without Gary Neville and Wayne Rooney and, while he has reason to expect Gerrard to be fit, there were no guarantees yesterday from BenÍtez, whose decision to field the 27-year-old against Chelsea only four days after the fracture, with the aid of a pain-killing injection, caused concern at the Football Association.
“We need to check on Gerrard during the week,” BenÍtez said when asked about the player’s prospects of playing for England next week. “We are optimistic, but we need to check with the doctor whether it is a risk or not. At the end of the day, it is a broken bone. At the moment he can do some training and he can run, but he can’t play with the ball yet.
“I would hope Steven will be a possibility to play against Derby but I am not sure, it is up to the doctors. Then we will have to see about England. It is too soon to say. It will depend on what England’s medical people feel and our own medical staff. It is not just a decision for the player. If you ask him, he wants to play in every game. The more important decision is for the doctor. If the doctor says he is fit, I don’t have any problem.”

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