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England may drop Ferdinand over fitness issues


MANCHESTER United’s defender Rio Ferdinand is facing a race to be fit after speculation that his place in the England squad is under threat.

According to the News of the World, the centre-back was expected to miss his club’s potential title decider against Stoke City yesterday, after aggravating an injury in training. Despite being named as the Three Lions’ captain for the FIFA South Africa 2010 World Cup this summer, his place is in jeopardy if he cannot prove his fitness to coach Fabio Capello.

The Italian boss looks set to turn to Jamie Carragher if Ferdinand cannot regain fitness, while Tottenham Hotspur’s Ledley King is a certainty to make the final cut. Ferdinand will have to follow in the footsteps of the Spurs’ skipper and prove that he will be able to handle the exertions of three games in just over a week.

The shock recall to international football for Liverpool’s Carragher means that Capello is sure to take him to South Africa, putting Ferdinand under even more pressure. Carragher and Manchester United’s midfielder Owen Hargreaves will be included in England’s 30-man preliminary squad for the World Cup, according to talkSPORT.

Carragher, who was set to work for the radio station during the summer, retired from international football in 2007 after falling out of favour with Three Lions’ former chief, Steve McClaren. The 32-year-old has insisted in the past that he would not return to the England setup, but appears to have accepted Fabio Capello’s third request for him to link up with the squad.

Meanwhile, Gareth Barry is reported to have suffered ruptured ankle ligament damage during Manchester City’s midweek clash with Tottenham Hotpsur, an injury that would almost certainly rule him out of the trip to South Africa. The injury seems to have opened the door for Hargreaves, who made his first appearance in over 18 months in last weekend’s Red Devils’ win over Sunderland to return to the international arena.

The Manchester United midfielder has suffered from career-threatening knee injuries during his spell on the sidelines, but Capello is apparently ready to turn to the Bayern Munich former man to fill the void left by Barry. England is pitched against USA, Algeria and Slovenia in Group C of the World Cup.

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