England-Scotland: Wilfried Zaha likely to play

An impressive pre-season for Manchester United could earn Wilfried Zaha a first England start. Picture: Getty
An impressive pre-season for Manchester United could earn Wilfried Zaha a first England start. Picture: Getty
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Wilfried Zaha is expected to earn his second England call-up today when Roy Hodgson announces his squad to face Scotland, but it is unclear whether he will be joined by his Manchester United team-mate Wayne Rooney.

Next Wednesday, the oldest fixture in international football returns as England face Scotland at Wembley.

Rooney is one of the few players at Hodgson’s disposal capable of producing the kind of magic Paul Gascoigne pulled out of the bag when he brought the Wembley crowd to their feet against the Scots at Euro 96.

But given Rooney’s recent injury problems, he may not be included in Hodgson’s squad when it is announced at 2pm.

Rooney, who has been the subject of two unsuccessful bids from Chelsea this summer, has not played in pre-season due to first a hamstring injury and then a shoulder problem.

Manchester United manager David Moyes last night cast doubt over whether the 27-year-old would be fit for Rio Ferdinand’s testimonial tomorrow, and possibly even the Community Shield clash against Wigan on Sunday, so should Hodgson select the striker he could well link up with the national squad having not kicked a ball so far this summer.

While Hodgson will put more importance on next month’s qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine, it is safe to say the England manager could do with his talisman being fit for next week because of a series of injuries that have reduced his attacking options.

Andy Carroll is out until September with a heel injury, Jermain Defoe is a doubt because of a hamstring niggle, while Daniel Sturridge only returned to training with Liverpool on Monday after his pre-season was blighted by an ankle problem.

One person who will benefit from the striker shortage is Zaha, who moved to Manchester United from Crystal Palace in the summer. The 20-year-old came off the bench to make his England debut against Sweden last November, and he has impressed enough for United in pre-season to get another call-up to the senior squad, where he will be joined by Hodgson’s only other fit regular striker Danny Welbeck.

Hodgson could hand Zaha his first England start or he could push Ashley Young, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Theo Walcott forward to play off the main striker’s shoulder.

There is also a chance that Hodgson could include Southampton striker Rickie Lambert, who scored 15 league goals last season.

The good news for England is that captain Steven Gerrard is back after missing three of the last four games, while Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere is likely to be named in the squad after enjoying an injury-free pre-season with Arsenal. The return of the duo will offset the disappointment of being without Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard, who is expected to miss out with an Achilles injury.

John Ruddy missed Euro 2012 after breaking a finger in the build-up to the tournament and he was sidelined for most of last season with a thigh injury.

The goalkeeper has played the majority of Norwich’s pre-season campaign, however, and looks likely to be recalled if he overcomes a back problem.

Hodgson also has an England Under-21 squad to pick after he agreed to take charge of the youngsters for Tuesday’s match against their Scottish counterparts at Bramall Lane.

The England manager is likely to look at a number of fresh faces following the team’s winless performance at the European Championships which cost Stuart Pearce his job.

Steven Caulker, Tom Lees and Nathaniel Clyne are just three of 13 players from that squad who are now over-age, meaning there will be a host of new additions.

Promising Southampton left-back Luke Shaw, who missed the tournament in Israel with a back injury, is likely to be called up.