Four days ahead of England’s World Cup opener, the Three Lions may have lost a potential starter. After limping off during Tuesday’s training session in Rio de Janeiro, Danny Welbeck is a doubt for Saturday’s match in Manaus against Italy, something that could vault Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling into the starting lineup.
Welbeck, who was already training with a heavily wrapped thigh, limped off the field at Urca military camp, according to reporting by The Guardian. Meanwhile Sterling trained extensively at the top of England’s midfield, hinting at a deployment that could push Wayne Rooney wide when England faces the Azzurri.
From The Guardian:
[Welbeck’s] absence from Saturday’s game would constitute a considerable blow for Roy Hodgson, who has leant heavily on the Manchester United forward throughout his tenure as manager despite his relatively meagre goals return for his club.
The 23-year-old, who has scored a solitary goal for club and country since 11 January, has found the net eight times in 20 games under Hodgson, including five in 12 competitive contests for the manager, and he had been pencilled in to operate on the left of an attacking trident …
That sketchy club form already had some England fans hoping Welbeck will be dropped from the team’s starting XI. With today’s development, Hodgson may have no choice. Welbeck may not be healthy enough to make his World Cup debut.
If he can’t go, the question becomes who gets promote to the starting lineup. With Sturridge unlikely to be pushed wide, Ricky Lambert may not be an option, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s knee will sideline him out on Saturday. That leaves Sterling, Jack Wilshere, and Ross Barkley as options in the attacking three behind Hodgson’s forward.
Here’s Hodgson on Sterling, whose red card in a recent friendly against Ecuador means he’s only had 39 minutes of action in the run-up to Brazil:
“… he’s as fit as a flea and I’m pretty certain he hasn’t forgotten how to play matches, either. It was unfortunate that he couldn’t play against Honduras but I can tell you that Raheem Sterling is very much in the group of players I’m considering.
“If I select him, it won’t be in my opinion a risk that he hasn’t played so many minutes. And if I don’t select him, it certainly won’t be because he has only played 39 minutes. It will be because I prefer someone else.”