Gareth Southgate defends playing John Stones despite injury scare for Manchester City

John Stones - Gareth Southgate defends playing John Stones after defender's injury scare for Manchester City

Gareth Southgate defended picking John Stones for successive England matches after he suffered injury on Tuesday night, with Jude Bellingham rescuing a last-gasp draw at Wembley with his stoppage-time equaliser.

‌Stones picked up an adductor injury and was forced off in the 10th minute against Belgium, with Manchester City facing an anxious wait over his fitness ahead of the Premier League title clash against Arsenal on Sunday.

‌City also saw Kyle Walker suffer a hamstring injury at the weekend against Brazil, with Stones playing the full match in that defeat. But Southgate pointed out that other players in the title race have also played twice for their countries during the break and playing Stones was not a risk.

‌“We measure everything and the first game for him wasn’t a game that was a high level in terms of the intensity,” he said. “We have done exactly what Holland did with Virgil van Dijk tonight. What Norway did with Erling Haaland and [Martin] Odegaard starting them again. Holland also started (Nathan) Ake again.

‌“So it only ever seems to fall on us when there is a question around that. Of course we are disappointed if he’s got a problem, it seems to be in the adductor area so we’ll have to wait and see. John also came in on the back of the back of not having played for two weeks so it is not an overload situation. But I hate sending players back to their clubs if they are not fully fit.”

‌Southgate has called his current injury crisis the worst he has suffered as England manager and after losing Walker and Harry Maguire at the weekend had to revise his plans for using players. Six of his team against Belgium started at the weekend.

‌Defensive errors led to Youri Tielemans scoring twice for Belgium, with the Aston Villa latching onto Jordan Pickford’s poor kick. He also headed home from Romelu Lukaku’s cross after Lewis Dunk’s slip.

Ivan Toney scored with a penalty on his first England start and Bellingham scored in the 95th minute after a strong second-half attacking performance.

‌“Jude of course is the headline and the competitive spirit and desire not to lose, and to win, was decisive but I thought the whole team showed that throughout the game and recovered from setbacks against a team with very good players so I’m very pleased with what I’ve seen,” said Southgate.

Marcus Rashford was not used off the bench, with Southgate revealing the Manchester United forward was not injured and he wanted to look at Anthony Gordon. His United team-mate Kobbie Mainoo impressed on his debut.

‌“He gives us a different profile midfielder to anything we’ve got and he’s adapted and adjusted brilliantly,” added Southgate. “At his age you can’t believe he has taken it all in his stride.”

Bellingham, meanwhile, added: “I liked the goal because I know the rubbish we would have got if we had lost two games on the bounce.”

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