March 19, 2013
Chelsea defender Gary Cahill played for England at Euro 2012.
Steve Bardens/Getty Images

England's problems in central defense became more acute on Tuesday when Gary Cahill was ruled out of the World Cup qualifier against San Marino on Friday because of a knee injury.

The Chelsea defender may not be available for next Tuesday's crucial match against Group H leader Montenegro, either, leaving England potentially without another key center back after the withdrawals of Rio Ferdinand and Michael Dawson over the past two days.

Newcastle's Steven Taylor was called up as Cahill's replacement, joining Chris Smalling, Joleon Lescott and Steven Caulker as coach Roy Hodgson's options at the heart of the defense. Of the quartet, only Taylor is a regular with his club.

"That would probably affect any squad in the world and we're probably fortunate that we've got some very good young players,'' England midfielder Frank Lampard said. "It will be time for those players to stand up.

"I'm sure they can do it because they do it regularly.''

Hodgson is already without Everton center back Phil Jagielka, who has a gashed ankle, while former captain John Terry retired from international football last year.

While the selection problems shouldn't prevent England beating San Marino, they could serious hamper the chances of toppling Montenegro, which is two points clear of the English after four games. Only one team qualifies automatically from the group.

Montenegro has proved difficult opponents for England in recent years, earning draws both home and away in qualifying for the 2012 European Championship.

The experience of Ferdinand would have come in useful during what is set to be a testing match in Podgorica next week, but the defender made himself unavailable Monday to avoid disrupting a detailed training and medical program he follows at Manchester United.

"Being one of the older lads, once you pass 30 years of age you have to manage yourself differently, maintain yourself, train more, train less, rest periods ... particularly lads who have picked up injuries,'' the 34-year-old Lampard said.

"I know Rio picked up a few injuries earlier in his career and he's been very disciplined in keeping on top of himself to make sure he gets the most out of his career, so a lot of respect for that, and everyone is different.''

Lampard could move to 96 caps for his country if he appears in both upcoming matches.

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