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Triple injury blow for England ahead of tricky Belgium test; U21 duo link up with senior squad

Harry Maguire, Kyle Walker and Sam Johnstone have left absentee-hit England’s squad through injury ahead of Tuesday’s friendly against Belgium.

Gareth Southgate’s men fell to their first defeat in 15 months on Saturday evening as teenage substitute Endrick’s late effort secured Brazil a 1-0 win at Wembley.

Walker and Maguire started that match but have now left the England camp through injury, as has back-up goalkeeper Johnstone, ahead of the Belgium clash.

Rico Lewis, who made his debut against North Macedonia in November, has subsequently joined from the under-21s squad along with James Trafford, who receives his first senior call-up.

The Football Association said in a statement: “James Trafford and Rico Lewis have moved across from the MU21s to join the England senior men’s squad.

“The pair report to Tottenham Hotspur’s training ground following the withdrawal of Harry Maguire, Kyle Walker and Sam Johnstone through injury.

“Maguire, Walker and Johnstone have returned to their respective clubs for assessment having sustained injuries in recent days.”

Lewis and Trafford follow Kobbie Mainoo – who made his senior England debut against Brazil – in being promoted from Lee Carsley’s Young Lions.

The withdrawals of Maguire, Walker and Johnstone follows the departure of Bukayo Saka and skipper Harry Kane earlier in the meet-up.

Cole Palmer and Jordan Henderson missed the Brazil friendly, also with knocks, adding to an unprecedented headache for England boss Southgate.

Speaking ahead of the Brazil friendly, he said: “Some players have had runs of injuries, some have perhaps played too many games too quickly after coming back from injuries.

“There’s a whole range and raft of reasons for the number of injuries.

“Clearly, the intensity of the games could be aspect of that, additional minutes in the games could be an aspect to that.

“What’s clear is we’ve got a long list of 40-odd players and a third are unavailable (for the game against Brazil), which is the highest we’ve ever had, no question.”

Lewis and Trafford are the beneficiaries this time around.

The former was named player of the match for his performance in November’s 1-1 Euro 2024 qualifying draw in Skopje, but has dropped down the England pecking order having only made four Manchester City appearances since the turn of the year.

Trafford left the Etihad Stadium for promoted Burnley in the summer, having helped England win the European Under-21 Championship.

The 21-year-old, who previously spent spells on loan at Accrington and Bolton, started every Premier League match for the Clarets until being dropped for their recent 2-1 win against Brentford.

Lewis and Trafford both started England Under-21s’ 5-1 qualification win away to Azerbaijan on Friday.

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