LONDON, United Kingdom, Mar 14 – Harry Kane’s injury casts a shadow over England manager Gareth Southgate’s squad announcement on Thursday for friendlies against the Netherlands and Italy just three months from the World Cup kick-off.
But the Tottenham forward’s ankle ligament damage suffered in his side’s 4-1 win at Bournemouth on Sunday is just one of many headaches for Southgate as the Russian showpiece looms.
Spurs announced on Wednesday that England’s talismanic striker is expected to return next month, meaning he should be fit for the World Cup.
Kane’s prolific form had been one of few comforts for Southgate since encouraging draws against world champions Germany and Brazil in November, with many of his key players limited in their first-team chances for their clubs.
Here are some of the issues that Southgate must grapple with.
Goalkeeper Joe Hart lost his place in a struggling West Ham side for 14 games and duly made a costly error as the Hammers went down 3-0 to Burnley on his return to the team on Saturday.
However, Southgate is not blessed with experienced back-up options, with Stoke’s Jack Butland and Jordan Pickford of Everton boasting just a combined seven caps.
Dearth of defenders
In defence, Southgate’s preferred centre-back pairing of Gary Cahill and John Stones have fallen down the pecking order at their club’s Chelsea and Manchester City.
Danny Rose has also failed to re-establish himself as first-choice left-back at Spurs after a long injury layoff.
Joe Gomez won man-of-the-match against Brazil but has since been usurped by fellow Englishman Trent Alexander-Arnold as Liverpool’s first-choice right-back.
Midfield is where Southgate’s options have seemed most limited for some time and injuries have not helped a host of World Cup hopefuls.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek earned rave reviews for his performances in his first senior international outings in November but has not played since December due to an ankle injury.
Harry Winks’s progression at Spurs has been halted by injury and, despite returning in November from a long-term hamstring problem, Adam Lallana has been ousted from Jurgen Klopp’s strongest side by Liverpool’s brilliant front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane.
Ross Barkley has barely featured since securing a January move to Chelsea, while Jake Livermore was one of four West Brom players disciplined by the club after being questioned over the theft of a taxi on a night out in Barcelona last month.
No competition for Kane
The desperation for Kane to be fit is understandable given a look at the lack of potential understudies.
Jamie Vardy is best placed thanks to his 16 goals for Leicester this season.
Marcus Rashford also impressed a watching Southgate at Old Trafford last weekend by scoring twice against Liverpool in his first league start of 2018.
However, of those to feature in recent Southgate squads: Tammy Abraham (4), Danny Wellbeck (3), Jermain Defoe (3), Daniel Sturridge (2), and Dominic Solanke (0) have scored a combined 12 Premier League goals this season.