Belfast Telegraph

England's back-up players can stake claim, says Hodgson

By Paul Hirst

Roy Hodgson wants his fringe players to prove a point to him in Turin as he prepares to field an "experimental" line-up against Italy.

England's confidence is running high after they thumped Lithuania 4-0 on Friday to stretch their post-World Cup winning streak to seven matches.

They know a much stiffer test lies around the corner though.

The Azzurri are without experienced campaigners Andrea Pirlo and Daniele De Rossi, but they are still by far the toughest opposition England have faced since their winless and joyless campaign in Brazil.

Hodgson's plans have been turned completely upside down after nine of his squad withdrawals, though. The likes of Chris Smalling, Kieran Gibbs, Andros Townsend, Theo Walcott and Ross Barkley are likely to get a chance in Turin and with competition for places increasing, particularly in midfield and attack, Hodgson wants to see encouraging signs from those who step in.

"We've got a tougher test ahead of us against Italy and we will be playing that game with players we wouldn't normally rely upon," said the England manager.

"There are an awful lot of people in the squad I count on that we've lost, but what it means is for those who are still with us, many who are relatively untried, there will be a chance for them to show that my faith in selecting them for this squad was justified."

Hodgson confirmed on Saturday that Danny Welbeck, Raheem Sterling, James Milner and Leighton Baines would all return to their clubs. Southampton full-back Ryan Bertrand is the only replacement.

In a bid, perhaps, to dampen expectations running high following Harry Kane's impressive debut on Friday, Hodgson was moved to describe his line-up as "experimental" on Sunday.

The England manager says his team should not be judged on the result of Tuesday's game at the Juventus Stadium, but later in the season.

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