Manchester United star pulls out of England squad ahead of box-office fixture

Manchester United striker Alessia Russo will not fulfil her England call-up after suffering a small injury.

When Sarina Wiegman’s 23-player squad reported for international duties at the Lensbury Resort in west London on Monday afternoon, Russo was not among them.

The 23-year-old was absent as Manchester United were held to a 1-1 Continental Cup draw by Aston Villa at the weekend, and now will miss out on the chance to represent her country in friendlies against the United States and the Czech Republic as she remains in the north west to undergo rehabilitation at her club.

The missed opportunity is a blow for the Kent-born attacker, who wore the number 23 shirt as she scored four goals from the bench at the European Championships this summer, ending the tournament as the competition’s third-top scorer.

Following the retirement of all-time top goalscorer Ellen White, Russo has emerged as a natural successor - in September’s World Cup qualifier against Austria, the forward graduated from the role of ‘super sub’ to starter and waited just seven minutes to get on the scoresheet.

At a sold-out Wembley stadium on Friday, the European Champions will face the ultimate test - the chance to prove their mettle against World Cup holders the United States of America. It is the greatest challenge that the Lionesses will face between their edgy Euro 2022 final win over Germany and kick-off in the 2023 World Cup, and Wiegman will be forced to try something new in the absence of her now first-choice number nine.

The Dutch coach has opted not to call up a replacement - though Euro medallist Bethany England was among the names left off her list, the Chelsea striker will remain at home while Wiegman improvises from her existing resources.

Refashioning Beth Mead, Rachel Daly, or Fran Kirby - who have scored three Women’s Super League goals apiece so far this season - as out-and-out strikers would force further reshuffling elsehwhere on the Wembley pitch. Instead, Wiegman could hand out a full debut - introducing rising Chelsea star Lauren James would be a brave choice after she earned her first senior cap against Austria last month, while Houston Dash forward Ebony Salmon deserves a chance to bring her goal-scoring form for club to the international stage.