Steven Gerrard: Chance to stake England claim


Captain Steven Gerrard believes England's Euro 2012 qualifiers against Bulgaria and Switzerland provide the ideal opportunity for new players to break into the national side.

England take on Bulgaria at Wembley on Friday and Switzerland in Basel next Tuesday without a number of established stars.

Several high-profile players are injured and not part of the squad, while head coach Fabio Capello has cut others loose following the Three Lions' dismal performance at the World Cup.

First choice central defenders John Terry and Rio Ferdinand, midfielder Frank Lampard and striker Peter Crouch are all absent through injury.

Meanwhile, World Cup trio David James, Ledley King and the retired Jamie Carragher are all now out of the international picture,

"After the team underperformed in South Africa there have been changes made," explained Gerrard.

"And with injuries to big players as well it's a fantastic opportunity for players to perform well and give the manager something to think about when we get together again."

Gerrard also accepts that the England players and management have a point to prove to supporters following the abject World Cup performance.

The fan reaction was mixed at last month's international friendly against Hungary as England returned to action for the first time since the 4-1 humbling at the hands of Germany in the round of 16 in South Africa earlier in the summer.

"The players and the manager realise that we are under pressure at the moment, which is normal after under-performing at the World Cup," he continued.

"It'll really help if we put in a good performance tomorrow and get the maximum points. Then we can obviously take the confidence from that into the Switzerland game on Tuesday.

"It's very important that we make a statement and show that we want to win the group and qualify comfortably.

"We qualified for the World Cup playing good, attacking football. If we can perform at that level I'm sure we'll get out of this group in similar fashion."

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