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Gerrard set for England milestone
Steven Gerrard will join a select band of players to reach 100 caps when he leads England in their friendly with Sweden in Stockholm next week.
Although coach Roy Hodgson indicated he would leave Gerrard out in the immediate aftermath of last month's World Cup stalemate with Poland in Warsaw, it is understood the Liverpool midfielder will be included in the squad when it is unveiled on Thursday morning.
Barring injury, it means Gerrard will join Peter Shilton, David Beckham, Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton and Billy Wright in becoming England's sixth centurion. It does seem unlikely Gerrard will be joined by Ashley Cole, who is also on 99 caps but who missed Chelsea's Champions League encounter with Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday evening with a hamstring injury.
Gerrard's inclusion shows how keen Hodgson is to acknowledge Sweden's desire to get the England team to open their new stadium, the 50,000-capacity Friends Arena in Solna.
It also recognises how much affection remains in Sweden for Hodgson, who is credited with helping to revolutionise football in the Scandinavian nation during two four-year stints as a club boss, with Halmstad and Malmo. Gerrard's inclusion means Wayne Rooney is also likely to be picked.
Sir Alex Ferguson has already cleared Rooney to make the journey and the fact England are staying in Manchester on Sunday and Monday, and training at Manchester United's Carrington training complex, where building work on multi-million pound improvements is almost at an end, eases further fears about the amount being demanded of Hodgson's talisman.
Rooney could be joined by United team-mate Ashley Young, who has recovered from the knee injury that has kept him out of all England's competitive fixtures so far this season. There could be some younger faces though, with Liverpool's Raheem Sterling and Arsenal defender Carl Jenkinson among those set to be included.
Sterling was a late call-up for the World Cup qualifier with Ukraine at Wembley in September, but failed to make it off the bench even though England struggled for openings before finally claiming a draw. Hodgson was considering picking Jenkinson for last month's games against San Marino and Poland but in the end decided against the move, pointing out the Stockholm trip was a more suitable environment.
Celtic striker Gary Hooper was also under consideration before he was ruled out with a hamstring injury. There is bound to be some talk of Jack Wilshere's return, especially as he has a free weekend looming following his dismissal at Manchester United on Saturday. However, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has already cautioned against such a move.
Manchester United defender Chris Smalling is another who has been denied to Hodgson during his short time in charge. Frank Lampard has already been ruled out, while Tottenham duo Steven Caulker and Jake Livermore and Southampton's Adam Lallana are others who might hope for a call.