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Rooney, Walcott set for England starts

St Albans (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Captain Wayne Rooney and winger Theo Walcott will both start England’s World Cup qualifier at home to Malta on Saturday, interim manager Gareth Southgate confirmed on Friday.

Rooney, 30, has been a substitute in Manchester United’s last three games and recently admitted that his poor form meant he deserved to be dropped.

Southgate, who succeeded Sam Allardyce at the England helm, intends nonetheless to select Rooney from the start against Malta, but would not confirm whether he will play in midfield or in attack.

Asked what Rooney would bring to his starting XI, Southgate said: “His ability to control a game, his experience.

“I think this is a game where we know we’re going to have a lot of the ball. Malta only have 35 to 40 percent of the ball in most of their games, so I expect us to control the game.

“We’ll need to show patience and stick to our principles of playing. Maybe we can get an early goal, but maybe we don’t, and then it’s even more important we stick to our style.

“I want us to be brave with the ball. I want to see an England team that are brave in possession of the ball and prepared to take chances.”

Saturday’s match will be England’s first on home soil since their humiliating elimination by Iceland at Euro 2016, but a full house is expected at Wembley.

Walcott was not selected by Roy Hodgson for the European championships, but has returned to the England fold thanks to fine early-season form for Arsenal that has seen him score four goals in his last four games.

– Cahill doubt –

“Obviously (my) football is going well at this moment in time,” Walcott told a press conference at the England team hotel in St Albans, north of London.

“We know how it all can change, but I’m in the frame of mind that I don’t want this time to stop. I’m working tremendously hard.

“I just want to be better, better than the opposition I play against come training and come match day.

“It just comes down to really hard work, things that add up in the week when you do things right.”

Everton centre-back Phil Jagielka withdrew from the squad due to a thigh strain on Friday, joining Glen Johnson, Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane and Adam Lallana on the sidelines.

Burnley centre-back Michael Keane and Crystal Palace winger Andros Townsend have been drafted into the squad as replacements.

Chelsea defender Gary Cahill missed training on Friday due to a sore throat and Southgate said his fitness would be “monitored” prior to Saturday’s match.

Southgate said there was a possibility he would call in more reinforcements before England’s game away to Slovenia on Tuesday.

Southgate has been placed in charge on a temporary basis following the departure of Allardyce, who left just 67 days into his tenure after being caught making indiscreet comments in a newspaper sting.

England won 1-0 away to Slovakia in Allardyce’s one game in charge, leaving them joint-top of UEFA qualifying Group F with Scotland.

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