Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge have been recalled by England manager Roy Hodgson for the decisive 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ qualifiers at home to Montenegro and Poland later this month. Both players missed the Three Lions' last two games through injury.
Rooney has been recalled despite sitting out Manchester United's 1-1 draw away to Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday with a shin injury, but Hodgson expressed confidence about the former Everton forward's fitness.
"We are reliably informed that it's not a serious injury and it won't stop him joining up with us," Hodgson told a press conference at Wembley Stadium.
The England manager said he was excited about the prospect of deploying Rooney and Sturridge together, the two having scored 12 goals between them since the start of the season.
"I was thinking these two players are in great form," he said. "I'm happy that at the moment, things are looking very good squad-wise. I'm very hopeful and very confident that this group of players, as long as they come through this weekend's games, they will take us [to the World Cup].
England face Montenegro at Wembley on 11 October, before tackling Poland at the same venue four days later. Hodgson's side approach the two games as Group H pacesetters and know that a pair of victories will guarantee them a berth in Brazil.
Despite the returns of Rooney and in-form Liverpool striker Sturridge, Southampton's Rickie Lambert kept his place from the squad that won 4-0 at home to Moldova and drew 0-0 in Ukraine in September. Everton midfielder Ross Barkley and Tottenham Hotspur winger Andros Townsend were also retained, having received their first senior international call-ups for those two games.
Young, Sterling overlooked, Hart support
There was a recall for United defender Phil Jones, but Liverpool right-back Glen Johnson, Arsenal attackers Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and West Ham United striker Andy Carroll all missed out through injury. United winger Ashley Young and Liverpool forward Raheem Sterling were not selected.
Hodgson also gave his support to first-choice goalkeeper Joe Hart, who was criticised for being beaten at his near post twice in Manchester City's 3-1 loss at home to Bayern Munich on Wednesday.
"I think goalkeepers are always going to be in that situation," Hodgson said. "The goalkeeper who lets a goal which people think he might have saved, I'm afraid these are the people in the firing line.
"I believe that Joe will shrug this off. I'm sure that he's not happy with the criticism and he's not happy to have let in goals that he thinks he might have stopped.
"As far as I'm concerned, he's never let me or the team down in the time I've been working with him. I have every confidence and every faith in him that he will have the confidence to put this behind him."
Goalkeepers: Fraser Forster (Celtic), Joe Hart (Manchester City), John Ruddy (Norwich City)
Midfielders: Ross Barkley (Everton), Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley (both Manchester United), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), James Milner (Manchester City), Andros Townsend (Tottenham Hotspur), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal)