Lampard injury blow for England

LONDON - Frank Lampard is set to miss Saturday's crucial European Championship qualifier against Israel and is rated a 50-50 chance to play in next week's match against Russia.

LONDON - Frank Lampard is set to miss Saturday's crucial European Championship qualifier against Israel and is rated a 50-50 chance to play in next week's match against Russia.

The 29-year-old Chelsea midfielder missed training yesterday because of a thigh injury and will have treatment at his club before linking up with the squad again on Saturday, when his condition will be assessed.

Lampard tore a muscle last week while training with Chelsea and had been expected to be out for several weeks, ruling him out of both of England's matches and possibly two more next month.

"The injury is not as serious as we first thought," England coach Steve McClaren said yesterday. "He may be 50-50 for next week and Chelsea are giving him every chance of being available for us." Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard, captain John Terry and Manchester United's Owen Hargreaves also missed the group training session yesterday, but all are expected to be fit for Saturday's match at Wembley.

Gerrard worked in the gym as he continued his rehabilitation from a broken toe that forced him to miss Liverpool's last three matches and England's recent friendly loss to Germany.

Terry was excused because he was ill, while midfielder Hargreaves was also in the gym as he worked on the knee problem that has kept him out of half of Manchester United's matches this season.

With Lampard out, Gerrard's absence would be a major problem for an England team in fourth place in its seven-team qualifying group with five matches left.

Though the pair's partnership in central midfield has drawn criticism from fans because of their similarities, Lampard would likely be replaced by the more defensive Hargreaves against Israel, allowing Gerrard to get into scoring positions. - Sapa-AP

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