Hodgson leaves it late to decide on Sterling and Milner fitness

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If England do well against Lithuania on Friday, the manager says that he could rest the Liverpool and Manchester City stars for Tuesday's friendly against Italy

England manager Roy Hodgson will assess the fitness of Raheem Sterling and James Milner ahead of Friday's Euro 2016 qualifier against Lithuania.

Liverpool forward Sterling is nursing a toe injury, while the Manchester City midfielder has been managing a knee problem through recent club matches.

Sterling came in for criticism when he asked to be left on the bench for October's 1-0 Group E win in Estonia, citing fatigue but, speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Hodgson hinted that he will release the youngster ahead of Tuesday's friendly against Italy.

"I haven't decided," said the Three Lions boss when asked about the likelihood of the 20-year-old featuring in Turin.

"There's an obvious case [to rest] him and James Milner, who's been playing for quite a while now with a knee problem.

"There are those two and others who we will have to take a very serious look at. In Raheem's case he needs some specific treatment and, who knows, if it goes well [on Friday] night, the wise thing might be to give someone else a chance."

England's top players being short of their best physical condition has been a regular hindrance at major tournaments.

World Cup 2022 was recently moved to a November-December staging due to oppressive temperatures in Qatar during the traditional June-July slot and Hodgson, who saw his side crash out during the group stages at last year's tournament in Brazil, believes that playing later in the year could benefit the Three Lions.

"The new date won't hurt," he remarked. "September, October, November is a good time to play international football because the players have had a summer break.

"It won't be a disadvantage for the European teams. The disadvantage will come when the various leagues in European countries have a problem. The World Cup itself won't be a disadvantage for European teams or England."

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