LONDON, March 25 (Reuters) – England can handle their Euro 2024 qualifier against Ukraine on Sunday with a reduced squad and will not call up players to fill in for the absentees, manager Gareth Southgate said.
The England coach has been left with 21 players to choose from with defenders Luke Shaw suspended following two yellow cards against Italy and Reece James withdrawing from the squad with an injury.
“We’ve been training with this group for a week,” Southgate told a news conference on Saturday.
“To call somebody from the outside would be potentially quite complicated, you’ve no idea where they might be, what their training load has been over the last few days.
“If we were going to do that at this point, we’d do it with the under-21s. But they’ve got a game today and we have just about enough to get through this game.”
The England manager appeared calm when asked about the fitness of those available.
“(Jordan Henderson) hadn’t trained a lot the previous week. He had an illness, which was the reason he missed Liverpool’s game the week before… But he’s in. He’s good now,” Southgate said.
“They’re all good… We’ve got to get the balance right of continuity, consistency, but also freshness.”
England kicked off their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign by defeating reigning champions Italy 2-1 in Group C on Thursday and are now favourites to top the group completed by North Macedonia and Malta.
But they will be up against a spirited Ukraine side, who, due to the Russian invasion, will be required to play their home matches at neutral venues until further notice.
“It’s a crucial game in the in the qualifying group. Frankly, if we can follow on what we did the other night and win this one, then we’re in a really good place,” Southgate added.
“(Ukraine) are very proud. We saw that at the beginning of the war when they went to Scotland and Wales for the (World Cup) playoffs, they’re a very proud group of players.
“You can see they’re totally committed to bringing enjoyment to their team, to their public. And yeah, we of course have huge sympathy with what’s going on. But tomorrow is a game of football and we’re fully focused on trying to win the game.”
Reporting by Anita Kobylinska in Gdansk
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