England manager Gareth Southgate has named Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson in his European Championship squad but admits he must prepare as if the injured duo will not play in the tournament.
Southgate named his final 26-man squad early on Tuesday evening with both Maguire and Henderson making the cut.
Manchester United captain Maguire missed the end of the season, including last week’s Europa League final defeat to Villarreal, with ankle ligament damage, while Liverpool skipper Henderson has not played since February after undergoing groin surgery.
Nations can make changes to their squads between now and the start of the tournament on June 11 but only if new injuries occur – meaning Maguire and Henderson cannot be replaced if they fail to recover from their current setbacks.
Southgate was keen to have them involved, especially since UEFA increased squad sizes from 23 to 26, but is wary of pinning his hopes on the duo being able to play.
“Everybody can see that it’s not an ideal situation when we’re 10 days away from the first game,” he told BBC Radio 5Live.
“But we feel they’re important players, we’re realistic and we’re feeling that if they can play a part with the team as the tournament goes forward, then that’s a bonus.
“We’ve covered what we might need with the rest of the squad. Because we had 26 we felt to bring their leadership into the group, to bring their experience, to bring their quality – if we can have – it is a bonus.
“But we’re not hanging our hat on, we definitely have them for any particular game, we’ve got to prepare as if they won’t be with us and if we can get them to where we want them to be, then that’s a bonus.”
Southgate revealed he intends to give Henderson a run out in Wednesday’s friendly against Austria at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium.
However, Maguire has not yet linked up with the rest of the squad and Southgate admits it will be a “tight” call on the defender’s involvement – even with the England medical team set to put in overtime.
“We’ve got the full picture, we know exactly where he’s up to,” he said.
“He hasn’t been able to travel to us yet because of the quarantine after the European final in Poland. So we’ve travelled there, a little bit.
“He should be with us tomorrow with the other Manchester United players and then, of course, we’re able to work around the clock with him, to try to get to the best level possible.
“It is going to be tight for the first game, there is no question. He is such a good player and because we had the additional size of squad, we wanted to take that opportunity to bring him into the squad.”
Asked further about Maguire and Henderson’s chances, Southgate – who is also considering giving Trent Alexander-Arnold a chance to play in midfield during the upcoming warm-up games – said: “Both of the players are not where you would want them to be in terms of being available for the game against Croatia.
“We are realistic about that but they are outstanding players. But when you are talking about Maguire who hardly ever misses a game and Hendo, who has made a living out of making the impossible seem possible, then maybe they can get there.
“It is not like repairing a machine – it is a human body and you can have little setbacks for any number of different reasons. Our aim is to progress them the best that we can.
“The most important thing is that we don’t push them beyond the point they are ready for – that would be stupid, negligent.
“But if we can get them to the point where they can contribute to the team, that would be fantastic for us because we know what outstanding players they are and outstanding characters.”
There are also smaller worries over Jack Grealish and Marcus Rashford but Southgate offered a positive.
“Jack has trained with the team, he hasn’t been able to train every day – we have to manage his load,” he added.
“We want to get the players to the best possible point but we don’t want to break them in the process.
“Marcus we haven’t seen on the grass but I have spoken with him and he assures me he is happy with where he is at. We go from there with that one.”
Rashford’s Manchester United team-mate Mason Greenwood withdrew from the squad before Southgate’s provisional 33-man pool was trimmed.
The 19-year-old was ruled out after United announced that playing in the competition would not be “beneficial” for an ongoing injury problem.
Greenwood played 100 minutes of the Europa League final but the Red Devils are now keen for him to have a period of rest.
“Manchester United striker Mason Greenwood has withdrawn from the provisional England Euro 2020 squad, in order to recover fully from an underlying injury that also kept him out of the Under-21 European Championship in March,” a club statement read.
“Mason’s club appearances were managed carefully to maintain his availability through the intensive 2020/21 Premier League and Europa League schedules.
“But a further spell of tournament football would not be beneficial and Mason will remain at Manchester United to recuperate and prepare for pre-season training.”