Either Fraser Forster or John Ruddy will have a chance to pile more pressure on Joe Hart on Friday after Roy Hodgson confirmed the out-of-form Manchester City goalkeeper will not start the friendly against Chile.
Hart has been dropped by City after a number of errors, and for the first time in three years, his place as England number one has come in to question. The 26-year-old has been out of the City team for past three games and he will once again be on the substitutes’ bench at Wembley when Chile visit for the international friendly.
"Joe Hart won’t be starting tomorrow," the England manager said. "You will have to work out for yourself which of the other two will."
When asked whether both Norwich stopper Ruddy and Celtic goalkeeper Forster could both feature, Hodgson said: "It’s possible." Hart has made grave errors against Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Cardiff and Aston Villa this season while Forster has been in superb form for Celtic.
The 25-year-old from Hexham was dubbed ‘The Wall’ by Barcelona fans and players alike after he performed superbly against the Spanish giants in the Champions League. Ruddy made his England debut last season and would have been in Hodgson’s Euro 2012 squad had he not broken a finger in the run-up to the tournament. Hodgson has been keeping an eye on the two replacements for a long time now.
"I have been lucky enough now to work with John for a period of time," he said. "He was been with us from the beginning and I have had Fraser with us for over a year so I do know a bit about them. I have made it (his decision) but I am not prepared to reveal it."
Hodgson gave little away at the team’s base in Watford when he was asked about who would start against the Chileans. The England boss confirmed Jay Rodriguez and Adam Lallana would both make their debuts, but would not say whether they would start, and confirmed that Rickie Lambert is out because of a muscle complaint. Kyle Walker will miss the game through injury and Daniel Sturridge is likely to be rested because of a foot problem. Frank Lampard will captain the side and pick up a golden cap to celebrate his 100th appearance for the Three Lions.
There will, therefore, be an experimental appearance to the England XI, but with the World Cup seven months away, Hodgson insists he must shuffle his pack, even if it puts the Three Lions’ unbeaten run in 2013 in jeopardy. "I’ve got to put the performances in front of protecting an unbeaten run," Hodgson added. "I do need in these two games to have a look at one or two players who are heavily knocking on the door and deserve a chance to show what they can do.
"There are only these two matches plus the one in March to do that before the squad is named. I can’t dismiss the need to give some playing time to people we need to know more about."
Around 60,000 fans are expected to attend Friday’s game at Wembley, with 20,000 more likely to visit four days later when England take on Germany. Given England’s history with Germany, the second game will be scrutinized far more, but Hodgson has worked with a number of Chilean players throughout his 33-year management career and he believes they will be tough opposition. And with the likes of Alexis Sanchez in Chile’s XI, it is hard to disagree with the England manager.
"We couldn’t have chosen two tougher or better quality teams to play," the 66-year-old added. "But if we are going to really have hopes of improving and becoming a better team and doing well in Brazil, we are not going to do it by racking up good results against teams who aren’t capable of beating us.
"In Chile and Germany we have two teams that are more than capable of beating us as they have shown in the last year and a half so it’s going to be up to us to make certain that our performance is good enough to stop that."
England labored through their World Cup qualifying group before beating Montenegro and Poland to secure their progress to the finals. There have been numerous critics of Hodgson’s side, but Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli is not among them.
"The manager has got them quite disciplined and they’re a strong unit defensively and keep things tight,” he said. "They’re a good side with a good chance (at the World Cup). What they’ve got to do is make sure they create enough of a goal threat to cement those good chances. They are a team that will get stronger during a tournament. They will get better and better as they progress.”
Chile are likely to be without two of their more influential players. Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal has a calf strain and is out, while Palmeiras’ Jorge Valdivia faces a late fitness test to determine whether he can play.