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October 14, 2009

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Gerrard out of Belarus tie with injury

LIVERPOOL midfielder Steven Gerrard has been ruled out of England's final World Cup qualifier against Belarus today, manager Fabio Capello said yesterday.

Gerrard came off at halftime in Saturday's 0-1 defeat in Ukraine with a groin problem and withdrew from England's training session yesterday at their base north of London.

"He didn't finish training because the pain was the same as yesterday so he is going back to Liverpool," Capello told a televised news conference.

Capello said first-choice goalkeeper David James would have a fitness test on a knee problem today. Robert Green is suspended after being sent off in Ukraine and Manchester United's Ben Foster has been added to the squad.

With striker Wayne Rooney ruled out due to a calf problem, Capello has the chance to experiment.

The Group 6 game at Wembley has nothing riding on it because England has qualified and Belarus is out of the running.

"Rooney is a very important player for us but tomorrow we play a different style, we play with some different players and it will be a very interesting game for me," Capello said. "I will know some players better.

"The style of Rooney is the style I like in my team but we can win with or without Rooney. I have big confidence in other players and it's possible there will be a surprise tomorrow."

Captain John Terry echoed his manager's thoughts on the Manchester United forward.

"He's been the heartbeat of our campaign so far and he's going to be sorely missed but it's a chance for other players to come in and cement their place on the plane for the World Cup," said Terry.

Capello said central defender Rio Ferdinand would definitely play despite a dip in form for both club and country, but Terry said nobody's place was guaranteed.

"Even the players playing regularly feel under threat if we are not performing, the manager has shown himself strong enough to not select us," he said.

Capello has invited every player involved in the qualifying campaign to today's match.

"It is the family of the England team," the Italian said.

Capello could switch to a 4-2-3-1 formation with Emile Heskey alone up front, pair the forward with his Aston Villa teammate Gabriel Agbonlahor or Tottenham's Peter Crouch, or even give West Ham's Carlton Cole a first start. Cole made it onto the field on Saturday but replaced Heskey in that match and is seen more as backup to the Villa striker than to Rooney.

Belarus has won four of its nine matches but those wins all came against the last-place sides Kazakhstan and Andorra.


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