By Will Butcher
Everton have suffered an injury blow after experienced defender Phil Jagielka was withdrawn on Friday from the England squad to face Malta and Slovenia.
The 34-year-old has suffered a thigh problem, with no details yet released on the severity of the injury.
Doctors have declared that Jagielka is unavailable to feature in Gareth Southgate’s first two matches in charge.
England revealed the news on their official Twitter account on Friday morning as well as stating that they will not be calling up a replacement at this time.
— England (@England) October 7, 2016
That leaves interim boss Southgate with John Stones, Gary Cahill, Chris Smalling and Michael Keane as his options at centre-back.
Former Sheffield United defender Jagielka was in line for a start against Malta on Saturday evening, as Cahill’s form for Chelsea is considered a concern.
Smalling has made just three Premier League starts for Mourinho’s Manchester United this term, while Michael Keane is uncapped and inexperienced on the international stage.
It also leaves Everton with a problem at the heart of their defence, with Jagielka featuring in all seven of the Toffees Premier League encounters this season alongside new signing Ashley Williams or Argentina international Ramiro Funes Mori.
The Merseyside giants’ club captain is now set to return to Goodison Park, as manager Ronald Koeman sweats over the availability of Jagielka.
The Toffees will be looking to continue their impressive run of form against league leaders Manchester City on October 15, that sees them currently sit in fifth position. Jagielka’s influence on the defence has seen them concede just five goals in seven domestic encounters.