England have striker worries ahead of World Cup qualifier vs Moldova
With Wayne Rooney sidelined and Daniel Sturridge, England coach Roy Hodgson will have to turn to the likes of Danny Welbeck, Jermain Defoe and Rickie Lambert - a scorer on debut last month - at Wembley Stadium.
With Wayne Rooney sidelined by a nasty-looking head injury, England will dip into their pool of reserve strikers to get the goals against Moldova on Friday in World Cup qualifying.
Daniel Sturridge, arguably the hottest forward in the Premier League at the moment, is likely to replace Rooney up front if the Liverpool player shrugs off a thigh problem that has affected him this past week.
If Sturridge doesn't come through, England coach Roy Hodgson will have to turn to the likes of Danny Welbeck, Jermain Defoe and Rickie Lambert - a scorer on debut last month - at Wembley Stadium.
Whoever starts in attack, England will expect to rack up the goals against a team it beat 5-0 away a year ago ahead of a much tougher qualifier in Ukraine on Tuesday. Just three points separates Group H leader Montenegro, second-place England and the Ukrainians, who are third with four matches left in qualifying.
Rooney, whose absence will be more keenly felt next week in Kiev, was moved to post a picture online of the deep cut on his forehead sustained in an accidental training-ground collision at Manchester United, in an effort to fend off accusations that he is not committed to the national team.
"Some people seem to be questioning my commitment to the England squad and the fact I had to pull out of the 2 games," Rooney wrote in a message alongside the picture. "There's nothing I would like more than to be helping the lads in the qualifiers.
"I'm sure people will see from these images the reason why I won't be able to play."
Theo Walcott, a winger who is another candidate to play up front, described Rooney's wound as "like something out of a horror film."
"Wayne is an absolutely fantastic talent. He has had it for so many years and it's a shame he's not here," Walcott said. "But we have got some players here that will now have the opportunity to come in and show what they can do and I think we will be absolutely fine."
Sturridge has scored the winner in all three of Liverpool's 1-0 victories to open up the new Premier League season but played at only 70 percent against United on Sunday, according to Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers.
England's players come into the game amid fears of a crisis in English football because of a lack of home-grown players in the domestic game. New FA chairman Greg Dyke said Wednesday that "English football is a tanker which needs turning."
It should give Hodgson's side an added incentive against 123rd-ranked Moldova to show that all is not so bad, although England's situation in a group many would expect the team to sail through underlines the problem. A loss in Ukraine next week could even leave England in danger of missing out on second place and a spot in the playoffs.
"This is the crunch time. We have to get results," England defender Gary Cahill said.
It's also a big few days for first-choice goalkeeper Joe Hart, who let in a soft goal in the 3-2 win over Scotland last month and has been criticized at the start of the season for some mistakes made while playing for Manchester City.
"Sometimes it is difficult when you are England's No. 1," said James Milner, Hart's teammate with England and City. "People just remember the bad side and the good things are expected. He is an amazing keeper and what is being said will only make him stronger."
Also Friday, Montenegro plays at fourth-place Poland, which needs a win to stand a chance of a top-two finish, and Ukraine will expect three points and a big victory at home against San Marino.