Roy Hodgson risks Liverpool wrath over Raheem Sterling’s England role
• England manager wants winger to play Under-21 Euros
• Wilshere and Oxlade-Chamberlain will stay with seniors
Roy Hodgson has decided Raheem Sterling should play in this summer's Under-21 European Championship in June but wants to keep Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain with the senior team as he prepares for the next World Cup.
Hodgson has also decided to free up Manchester United's new signing Wilfried Zaha and Sterling's Liverpool team-mate Jonjo Shelvey for the Under-21 tournament in Israel after discussions with the team's manager, Stuart Pearce.
However, Hodgson's decision means the Under-21s will effectively be without their two best players and Pearce will be unable to build his team around Wilshere as he had wanted.
Hodgson's thinking is that Wilshere and Oxlade-Chamberlain are now such an important part of the senior team it would be better to take them to Brazil for the 2 June friendly in the Maracanã and give them a taste of football in South America before England, qualification permitting, return for the World Cup next year.
The England manager's intentions will become clearer on Thursday when he excludes Sterling, Zaha and Shelvey from his 25-man squad for next Wednesday's game against Brazil at Wembley. All three were included in England's last game, the defeat by Sweden in November, but will miss out this time after Hodgson and Pearce agreed it would be better for the trio to be involved in the Under-21s game against Sweden in Walsall on Tuesday, with a view to preparing for this summer's tournament. Wilshere and Oxlade-Chamberlain will stick with the senior side.
The move heads off another potential club-versus-country row with Arsène Wenger after his previous complaints about the England team putting Arsenal's players at the risk of burn-out. However, Hodgson's decision is not guaranteed to go down well at Liverpool, where there are similar concerns about Sterling in his breakthrough season. The 18-year-old has started 19 of Liverpool's 24 Premier League games and appeared in all six of their Europa League games. No other player at Anfield has been involved in more matches this campaign and Sterling's season will now not finish until potentially 18 June.
Hodgson, who has been giving strong consideration to calling up Chris Smalling, has debated his selection at length with Pearce and agreed that it would be better for Zaha, Sterling and Shelvey to get tournament experience rather than being involved in the trip to Rio. Hodgson would not relax his position, however, when it came to Wilshere and Oxlade-Chamberlain. The provisional plan is for the two players to play against the Republic of Ireland on 29 May and then fly to Rio with the rest of the squad the following day.
The Football Association has spoken to its Brazilian counterpart about wearing black armbands at Wembley and possibly holding a minute's silence or applause for the victims of the nightclub fire in the South American country last weekend. The game also falls on the 55th anniversary of the Munich air disaster and the FA is looking at ways of commemorating both tragedies.
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