Owen is fit to play: Souness

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Injured striker Michael Owen should be fit to play in England’s crucial World Cup matches this week, his Newcastle boss Graeme Souness says…

Owen missed the 0-0 draw at Portsmouth with a dead leg but the striker should be fit in time for the meeting with Austria at Old Trafford on Saturday.

"We had to give Michael Owen and Scott Parker fitness tests this morning," said Souness.

"Unfortunately, Michael did not feel he could manage a game. Yesterday in training he ran into Stephen Taylor and got a dead leg on the outside of his thigh. "Fortunately for England, he will be fine. By about Wednesday or Thursday, he should be okay."

Souness’ words will come as a relief to England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, who is already without Wayne Rooney due to suspension for the Austria game.
Whatever the state of his fitness, Owen was still likely to be selected on Sunday in the squad for the qualifiers against Austria and Poland.

He will be assessed by the England medical staff when the squad join up next Tuesday for a game which England have to win to keep alive their automatic qualification hopes.

And if Owen is fit, Eriksson will likely switch back to a 4-4-2 formation against Austria, with Liverpool striker Peter Crouch emerging as the front-runner to partner the Newcastle striker.

Owen and Rooney were both missing for post-season tour game against the United States in May, when Andrew Johnson partnered Alan Smith and Kieran Richardson scored twice in a 2-1 win.

However, Eriksson has not been without both of his leading forwards at the same time for a qualifying game since Rooney made his first England start against Turkey in April 2003.

The Swede is definitely without Gary Neville, while Michael Carrick and Kieron Dyer are also set to be ruled out through injury, with Paul Konchesky and Danny Murphy both hoping for recalls along with Emile Heskey and Peter Crouch.

The England coach’s other great selection dilemma surrounds his centre-backs, with Sol Campbell having now returned from injury with some impressive displays for Arsenal, while Ledley King is also fit again.