Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has been forced to withdraw from the England squad for the upcoming 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
The 23-year-old suffered a muscle injury playing for new club Everton in Sunday’s 2-0 defeat to Chelsea and has now been sent back to the Toffees for treatment.
Pickford was called up to the squad by Gareth Southgate after impressing for the Under-21s on their way to the semi-finals of this summer’s European Championship in Poland.
The goalkeeper’s duel with Jack Butland to become the country’s number one looks set to be one of the most exciting sub-plots surrounding English football over the next decade, and both men will be hoping to be selected for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
It had been suggested former Sunderland man Pickford could play a part in either of the qualifiers against Malta or Slovakia, but the FA confirmed on Tuesday that he has returned to his club for treatment.
A Football Association statement read: “Having reported to St George’s Park on Sunday evening, the 23-year-old underwent an assessment on a muscle injury sustained playing for his club.
“After discussions between England and Everton medics, it was decided it was in the player’s best interests to return to Finch Farm for further treatment.”
England currently top European 2018 World Cup qualifying Group F and are 1.08 to maintain their position, with the Slovaks 8.00.
A Three Lions win on Friday in Malta is 1.05, the draw is 11.00 and the Maltese are priced as the massive 81.00 outsiders.