England v Italy preview

England boss Roy Hodgson is keeping his cards close to his chest over his starting XI for the friendly clash against Italy on Wednesday.

Last Updated: 14/08/12 at 21:58

Hodgson: Staying guarded over line-up

Hodgson: Staying guarded over line-up

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Speculation is rife over who will line up in goal in the absence of Joe Hart, who pulled out of the encounter in Berne.

Birmingham keeper Jack Butland is in contention with Norwich's John Ruddy for the vacant spot.

While both keepers would usually be given a chance to impress in a normal friendly, both teams have been limited to six substitutes apiece so Hodgson revealed he may have to be more frugal with his selections.

When asked who would start in goal, Hodgson said: "I can't say that because I haven't actually spoken to the players.

"I haven't even given them an indication of who is playing unless they try to read my mind during the training sessions and see how people line up there.

"As far as Jack and John, they're pretty much neck and neck for a place in the team and I'm still to decide whether I just choose one or whether possibly we have enough substitutes to enable me to give each of them a game.

"And that wouldn't be wrong and if we didn't have the restrictions on substitutes I could tell you now.

"But I have to be a little more careful when you can only use six.

"I'm quite anxious we give quite a lot of the players the chance to get on the field and play but we're only allowed six substitutes so in actual fact 19 players is still more than enough.

"We'll still have more substitutes than we're allowed."

Theo Walcott pulled out of the squad earlier on Tuesday due to a thigh problem, which Hodgson revealed he picked up in Arsenal's friendly against Cologne.

However, Hodgson boss hopes the forward will recover from the knock in time for the Gunners' opening Premier League encounter against Sunderland on Saturday.

"Theo took a kick on his thigh rather badly and we were rather hoping a couple of days would see him right again but unfortunately given the recovery time, we've had to leave him at Arsenal's training ground," Hodgson added.

"Hopefully he can recover in time for Saturday's game.

"I don't think it's a serious injury but it's a kick that takes one or two days to recover from."

Frank Lampard is set to captain England as they attempt to gain a measure of revenge for their defeat to the Azzurri in Euro 2012.

The Chelsea midfielder was absent for the tournament in Poland and Ukraine due to injury as England went out at the quarter-final stage on penalties.

Hodgson admitted "We missed him during the Euros.

"When you've got players of Frank Lampard's quality it's a great pity when they get injured and we had the same situation with Gareth Barry so we lost two very important members of our central midfield before we travelled to Poland and eventually to the Ukraine.

"So that was a blow for us but at least now, Frank is back."

Hodgson is also buoyed by Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick's decision to end his self-imposed international exile.

"We have the added bonus in this game that Michael Carrick, who was not available for the Euros - he didn't want to be a part of the Euros and we were told not to consider him - luckily he's reconsidered that decision and he's now keen to play for us again," Hodgson said.

"So I've got yet another quality player coming back that I didn't have during the Euro 2012 games."

When asked whether he will experiment with his tactics on Wednesday, Hodgson replied: "I think the formation side of things is grossly exaggerated.

"Whether you play with two forwards with one dropping in midfield or three midfielders with one pushing forward, it seems to be a case of semantics.

"I don't really see enormous difference in that respect."

Hodgson will be pushing for a morale-boosting win on Wednesday but - with the World Cup qualifiers in mind - claims a positive result is not his only focus.

He added: "I'll be disappointed if we lose it, of course I will but on the other hand I'm really hoping tomorrow to see a few things that excite me and give me hope that we can really put a strong squad together during the next couple of years and make the qualification (for the World Cup)."

England have been handed a boost with the news Manchester City and Italy striker Mario Balotelli will miss the game after contracting conjunctivitis.

He was replaced by Diego Fabbrini but Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has assured Balotelli that he has a big part to play in Italy's future.

He said: "We were hoping Mario would recover in time, but it wasn't to be.

"I want to give him a key role in the long term and I expect him to accept responsibility when I do."

Prandelli, like Hodgson, has rested his key stars, in naming an unproven squad, including just three of the players that helped beat England in Kiev.

But he has laid down the gauntlet for his young side to continue the momentum built by Italy's more established stars, who reached the final of Euro 2012.

"We're ready to start the new season with a lot of enthusiasm and we want to do well. I've seen in the eyes of my players that they want to get off to a good start," Prandelli said.

"We want to continue down the path we forged at the European Championships, now that we've gained more credibility.

"The objective is to keep playing our game but with more finesse in the execution. We want to make an impact in the game at Berne, a team that knows exactly what to do, and when."

Kick-off in Berne is 8pm.

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