John Stones selection not a risk, Gareth Southgate says despite Manchester City defender’s injury

Gareth Southgate has defended his selection of John Stones for England’s friendly against Belgium at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday — despite the Manchester City defender having to be withdrawn in the opening 10 minutes due to an injury.

Southgate added that the Stones, who played the full game when England lost 1-0 against Brazil on Thursday, appeared to have suffered an adductor problem.

The 29-year-old now faces a potential fitness battle ahead of Sunday’s crucial Premier League game against leaders Arsenal, who his City side trail by a point with 10 matches remaining.

Stones appeared to jar his leg while passing the ball and then needed treatment from the England medics before being replaced by Liverpool’s Joe Gomez, but was later seen back on the England bench.

Asked whether it was a risk starting Stones, Southgate replied: “Well, no, the first game — we measure everything — the first game for him wasn’t a game that was a high level in terms of the intensity.

“We’ve done exactly what Holland did with Virgil van Dijk tonight, what Norway did with Haaland and Odegaard, starting them again, Holland also started Ake again.

“So it only ever seems to fall on us when there’s a question around that. Of course, we’re disappointed if he’s got a problem, it seems to be in the adductor area, so we just have to see.

“John also came in on the back of not having played for two weeks, so it’s not that it’s an overload situation. But I hate sending players back to their clubs if they’re not fully fit.”

England twice went behind on Tuesday, with two first-half goals from Aston Villa’s Youri Tielemans coming either side of an Ivan Toney penalty — the Brentford striker’s first goal for his country. But Real Madrid’s Jude Bellingham scored with the final kick of the game to prevent Southgate’s side from suffering back-to-back home defeats.

Stones has been a key figure for England at recent tournaments, starting every game at the 2022 World Cup and 2020 Euros.

Stones has only played in half of City’s 28 Premier League games this season, predominantly due to missing the beginning of the campaign with a hip injury. He has been in and out of Pep Guardiola’s side since then, although had started City’s last four Premier League games ahead of the international break before being an unused substitute during their FA Cup quarter-final win over Newcastle United on March 16.

Following Sunday’s Arsenal game, City host Champions League-chasing Aston Villa on Wednesday, April 3 before travelling to Crystal Palace the following Saturday.

Guardiola’s side then face Real Madrid away and then at home in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, either side of the visit of Luton Town on April 13.



How Stones and Rodri’s attacking runs unlocked Man Utd’s 4-2-4-0 formation

(Clive Rose/Getty Images)

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