Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers has poured further doubt on Jonny Evans’ fitness ahead of Northern Ireland’s upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
Ian Baraclough is set to name his international panel on Tuesday morning at 11am ahead of the triple header early next month.
He could well be without the services of star defender Jonny Evans, who has yet to play for Leicester this season.
He’s been struggling with a foot problem – plantar fasciitis – after initially pulling up in the warm-up for a Premier League game against Newcastle United in early May. He was then passed fit to start the FA Cup final a week later but pulled up after half an hour, was substituted and has not played since.
Rodgers initially said he hoped to have the 33-year-old available for Premier League action after the upcoming international break but has now said that Evans is “not close to playing”.
“He is out but he’s not training with the team,” said the Foxes boss. “It’s just ongoing with Jonny. We said we would see where he would be after the international break. He’s not close to playing.
"It’s one of those frustrating injuries. He might wake up in a week’s time and it’s all okay. Hopefully we get him back soon.”
Northern Ireland will face Lithuania (away – September 2) and Switzerland (home – September 8) in qualifying games either side of a friendly in Estonia on September 5.
They will at least be buoyed by the form of Daniel Ballard, who has begun life in the Championship in impressive fashion after joining Millwall on loan from Arsenal, while Craig Cathcart started Watford’s opening Premier League game of the season and Chelsea U23 defender Sam McClelland is fresh from his Northern Ireland debut earlier this summer.
Paddy McNair, of course, has also been regular utilised at centre-half for Middlesbrough despite playing in midfield early this season and for the national team.