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Monday, October 15, 2012
Gerrard to return, Hodgson undecided

ESPN staff and Harry Harris, Football Correspondent

Tom Cleverley is expected to make way for Steven Gerrard as Roy Hodgson plans to make an anticipated six changes for England's World Cup qualifier against Poland on Tuesday.

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Cleverley has started every qualifier so far in England's bid to book a ticket for the 2014 World Cup in Rio. However, the England boss has Wayne Rooney and Gerrard available together for the first time in the campaign, which will likely force Cleverley onto the bench.

Hodgson is expected to line up with returning skipper Gerrard - back from suspension - alongside the deeper-lying Michael Carrick in midfield, with Rooney playing off a lone striker.

That striking berth is anticipated to go to Jermain Defoe, despite Danny Welbeck's two goals against San Marino. Defoe is seen as the more prolific option for a game when chances may be at a premium at Warsaw National Stadium.

Hodgson will be without Frank Lampard, Ryan Bertrand and Theo Walcott on Tuesday, so James Milner will come in as a reliable right-wing option. Meanwhile, Ashley Cole is likely to win the battle with Leighton Baines for the left-back duties.

Kyle Walker's injury makes it an easy decision for Glen Johnson to start at right-back, while Hodgson's biggest call could be whether to replace either Gary Cahill or Phil Jagielka with Joleon Lescott at the heart of the back four.

Indeed, Hodgson admits he does have a few tough decisions to make in terms of his side after the impressive form of left-back Leighton Baines and Welbeck against San Marino.

He said: "There are a few (decisions) and that's good. It's good to have those decisions. I prefer not to quantify them or put them in any order. But it was very good the players who came in against San Marino, who many people do not see as the first choice, played so well and that does mean you get a bit more of a selection headache.''

Hodgson is also aware of the significance of England obtaining a positive result in Warsaw particularly as they will not return to qualifying action for five months.

He said: "We were aware when the draw was made that Poland and Ukraine were important fixtures. If we can take more points from them than they take from us it gives us a great advantage.

"Because it is five months to the next qualifier, it will make a victory that much sweeter and a defeat that much more painful. It is the same as when a club team loses or wins before an international break except at this level the gap before you play again is considerably longer.''

England enter Tuesday's qualifier on seven points from three games, and have only lost to Poland once - back in 1973. The home side will be without injured captain Jakub Blaszczykowski and goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny.

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