LONDON, Sept 5 (Reuters) - England striker Daniel Sturridge has been ruled out of Friday's World Cup qualifier against Moldova but manager Roy Hodgson hopes he may recover in time for Tuesday's trip to Ukraine.
The in-form forward has returned to his club Liverpool for treatment on a thigh injury picked up during the side's 1-0 victory over Manchester United at the weekend.
Hodgson was already without striker Wayne Rooney, who has a head injury, for both games and 22-year-old Danny Welbeck looks set to lead the attack against Moldova at Wembley.
"We have not exactly been lucky with injuries. We have lost five players that a couple of weeks ago I was really banking on," Hodgson told a news conference on Thursday, adding defender Steven Caulker was also ruled out with an ankle injury,
"(Sturridge) has worked hard at his treatment. The initial prognosis was that he would not be fit for either. It will be touch and go for Tuesday but we won't know until Sunday."
England are well-placed to qualify for next year's tournament in Brazil although trail Group H leaders Montenegro by two points with a game in hand. Ukraine are third, a point behind England.
However, the build-up to the Moldova game has been dominated by FA chairman Greg Dyke's assertion that few people believe England can win the World Cup next year.
"I would say I very much doubt we are at the top of bookmakers lists to win the World Cup next year at the moment," Hodgson said. "So let us first qualify and then aim to get a bit better when Brazil comes round.
"The four remaining games are of vital importance. I don't quantify games as one being easy or one being hard. Moldova have proven very hard to beat and we know they will be hard to beat on Friday night and I will need my best players.
"I think we need 10 points. I think that would see us mathematically certain." (Reporting by Ed Osmond; editing by Martyn Herman and Alison Wildey)