Football: Sterling to withdraw from England squad after Lithuania match

The Guardian - Raheem Sterling is to become the third Liverpool player to withdraw from the England squad with the winger expected to be released back to his club after Friday's Euro 2016 qualifier against Lithuania.

The 20-year-old has been granted leave to miss next week's friendly in Italy.

Roy Hodgson, who is considering handing Harry Kane a full debut in partnership with Wayne Rooney in Friday's game at Wembley, is aware Sterling has been playing recently despite requiring regular injections in a toe injury.

The England manager's relationship with Brendan Rodgers has been strained in the past over the fitness of Sterling and Daniel Sturridge, who missed five months this season after sustaining a thigh injury in training at St George's Park.

Liverpool had insisted that setback could have been prevented if the striker had been granted his usual two-day post-match recovery period, while Sterling had apparently complained of fatigue ahead of England's win in Estonia in October, prompting his omission from the starting lineup.

With that in mind, Hodgson had promised to listen to his former club's concerns before naming his 24-man party for the two fixtures just before Easter.

He ended up selecting a quartet of Liverpool players, though Sturridge and Adam Lallana have since returned to Merseyside with hip and groin complaints respectively. Now Sterling is set to join them back at Melwood at the weekend with an appearance against Lithuania to be his 50th game of the campaign to date.

Hodgson, speaking to Talksport on Tuesday night, admitted he expects withdrawals from his squad after Friday's fixture.

"People may judge us on Italy rather than Lithuania but that is dangerous because apart from all the players I have lost through injury, I fear we will lose a few more," he said.

"Already there are one or two who I know won't be able to join us against Italy because of the problems they are dealing with at the moment. I fear, on this occasion in particular, it won't be as strong a team as maybe I would like to have put out. But the qualifier is still the priority even though, on paper, Italy are a stronger team to play than Lithuania."

Quite how the other clubs competing with Liverpool - who expect to have Lallana and Sturridge fit for the resumption of the Premier League - for a top-four place react to seeing another of the Merseysiders' key players released early remains to be seen.

Arsenal, who have Theo Walcott, Kieran Gibbs and Danny Welbeck in Hodgson's squad, welcome Rodgers' team to the Emirates for a 12.45pm kick-off four days after the friendly in Turin. Manchester United have four players involved while Tottenham Hotspur have five.

Hodgson arrived at training at St George's Park on Tuesday clasping a piece of paper on which he had laid out a prospective team, with the names "Kane" and "Rooney" ringed up front. Sturridge's absence has limited the manager's options slightly but, while Welbeck has five goals in four qualifying ties this term and has excelled in this England set-up, Kane is expected to gain a first senior cap at some stage against Lithuania.

The Spurs forward had only made one Premier League start this season the last time England played, with his consistent excellence at club level since having earned him this opportunity.

Hodgson laughed off suggestions the names on his scrap of paper had been a definitive lineup for Friday. "That would be dangerous to assume," he said, but the manager has been impressed by Kane's impact.

"It is fantastic what he has done. It is very tough for a young player to come into a top team like Tottenham, with the demands and expectations that brings, and to shoulder aside people like (Emmanuel) Adebayor and (Roberto) Soldado and make the place your own. To keep your place and score a lot of goals... that is some achievement. I am delighted for him and, if he gets his chance to play in these games, I'm sure he won't let anyone down."