LONDON - England coach Fabio Capello will be without at least six of his first-choice side for Wednesday's friendly against Germany in Berlin after Steven Gerrard withdrew from the squad on Monday.
In a further development that Alanis Morissette would doubtless deem ironic, Frank Lampard has also been withdrawn from action; let's hope they can both work together on the treatment table.
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand were left out of the squad after missing their side's Premier League game on Saturday, while Chelsea's Joe Cole and Ashley Cole and Wigan Athletic's Emile Heskey are also unfit.
The only good news for Capello is that captain John Terry was declared fit enough to travel to Germany after a scan on his foot injury revealed nothing too serious.
Fulham midfielder Jimmy Bullard and West Ham United's Scott Parker have been called in by Capello in place of Lampard, who has a rib injury, and Gerrard who damaged a thigh muscle against Bolton Wanderers on Saturday.
"Both Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard reported to England camp on Sunday night and were assessed by the medical staff. Steven has a groin injury, Frank has a rib injury," an FA statement said on Monday.
"Both were scanned this morning and have now been sent back to their clubs for further treatment."
The pull-outs will raise inevitable questions about the timing of a midweek friendly in the middle of a crowded domestic programme. Only four players from England's top four clubs will be on duty for their country, as well as young Chelsea defender Michael Mancienne, currently on loan at Wolverhampton Wanderers.
However, Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick said the fixture was still important.
"I'm playing for England and this is the stuff of dreams," Carrick, the only United player in the squad, told a news conference at England's training camp.
"Germany versus England is a massive game and I've always dreamed to be part of one day. It's not a hindrance at all. I'm here and I want to play.
"The club versus country thing always pops up but as players we don't get involved in that. We want to be part of the England team. Germany versus England in Berlin is huge and we want to be part of that."
England are on a four-match winning streak under Capello and are well on the way to qualifying for the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa. They have played Germany just once since their memorable 5-1 victory in Munich in 2001, with Germany winning 2-1 at Wembley in 2007.
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