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Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford and Arsenal midfielder Bukayo Saka are doubtful for England’s three World Cup qualifiers, manager Gareth Southgate said ahead of Thursday’s opener against San Marino at Wembley.

Rashford missed United’s FA Cup defeat at Leicester City on Sunday due to a foot injury and has yet to train with England, while Saka is still having his hamstring injury treated by his club.

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“They’re both doubtful, I’d say Marcus more doubtful than Bukayo at the moment. We’re going to assess them, Marcus has been very keen to be with us. He wasn’t with us so much in the autumn, so he’s been keen to be part of the group,” Southgate told reporters on Wednesday. “Bukayo hasn’t been able to join us yet but hopefully will be in the next couple of days.”

England face Albania in Tirana on Sunday and host Poland at Wembley in Group I on Wednesday.

Injuries mean Southgate is without a number of players including Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson, Aston Villa’s Jack Grealish and Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho.

“We have clearly lost a lot of players coming into the camp, we did in the autumn as well, that is something we are having to cope with but that is an opportunity for other players as well,” he said.

Southgate said he was particularly conscious of the need to spread the load during the three games.

“We’ve got to make sure we manage the fixtures correctly, we’ve got to manage training this week as well,” Southgate added. “And of course we’ve got to be just as fresh for the games with Albania and Poland as we do tomorrow night so that’s not an unusual challenge for us and our coaching team, and for our medical team and physical performance team.”

Southgate suggested that captain Harry Kane would be one of the players whose time would be rationed, laughing off the idea that the Spurs striker would have a say in the matter.

“If I allowed Harry to make that decision, he’d play every minute,” joked Southgate. “So that won’t be happening. It’s brilliant we’ve got a captain who wants to play every minute of every game.

“We’ve got to be mindful he had extra-time last Thursday and another high intensity game on Sunday. “


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