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Bukayo Saka: Arsenal forward pulls out of England squad with minor muscle issue

Saka reported for England duty with injury and will return to Arsenal for "continued rehabilitation," says FA; forward will miss games against Brazil and Belgium; Arsenal face Man City in top-of-the-table clash at the Etihad on March 31, live on Sky Sports

Bukayo Saka celebrates after scoring Arsenal's third goal in their defeat of Newcastle
Image: Bukayo Saka has left the England squad with an injury

Arsenal forward Bukayo Saka has withdrawn from the England squad due to a minor muscle issue.

Saka has been in fine form for Arsenal this season as they sit top of the Premier League and prepare for a Champions League quarter-final clash with Bayern Munich.

But the 22-year-old will miss friendlies against Brazil on Saturday and Belgium on Tuesday - the last two England games before Gareth Southgate announces his squad for Euro 2024 in May.

Saka has withdrawn as a precaution due to a minor muscle issue and will be assessed back at Arsenal in the coming days.

"Bukayo Saka has left the England camp and returned to his club for continued rehabilitation," the Football Association said in a statement on Thursday.

"The Arsenal forward reported to St George's Park with an injury and has been unable to participate in training.

"No further replacements are planned as a 25-man England squad continue their preparation for the forthcoming internationals with Brazil and Belgium."

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Saka had worked indoors on an individual programme at St George's Park on Wednesday, along with captain Harry Kane, Cole Palmer and Jordan Henderson.

Arsenal return to action after the international break with a top-of-the-table clash against Manchester City at the Etihad on March 31, live on Sky Sports.

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Saka withdrawal another blow for Southgate's Euros preparation

Sky Sports' Peter Smith:

England's marquee Wembley friendlies against Brazil and Belgium this month were intended to be an opportunity for Gareth Southgate to give his Euro 2024 plans a stern examination ahead of this summer's tournament. But Bukayo Saka's withdrawal is just the latest blow to those plans.

With Harry Kane, Cole Palmer and Jordan Henderson forced to train indoors on Wednesday due to their own fitness issues and Trent Alexander-Arnold, Luke Shaw, Kieran Trippier, Marc Guehi and Levi Colwill out injured, the starting XI likely to face Brazil on Saturday evening could be far removed from the side which kicks off the Euros campaign in Germany in June.

Of course, players pulling out opens up opportunities for others. Phil Foden will presumably take on Saka's right-wing slot, which could give Marcus Rashford or Anthony Gordon a chance to impress on the left. Or maybe Jarrod Bowen can show off the form which has brought him 14 Premier League goals this season by coming in off the right flank.

But this isn't really the time for experimentation. There are the final two warm-up games against Bosnia & Herzegovina and Iceland before the Euros begins but the chance for Southgate to see his strongest side in full flow against two of the world's best sides has frustratingly escaped him.

England's long injury list in full - the 14 regulars in the treatment room

Sky Sports News chief reporter Rob Dorsett:

Bukayo Saka is absolutely one of the first-choice XI. Southgate is also without: Nick Pope, Kieran Trippier, Luke Shaw, Ben Chilwell (who's nursing an injury but is with the squad), Reece James, Harry Maguire (who's recovering from injury), Marc Guehi,Levi Colwill, Tyrone Mings, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jack Grealish, Callum Wilson, and, of course, Harry Kane.

Is the captain going to be able to take any part in the game against Brazil on Saturday at Wembley? He missed training on Wednesday on the pitch while he took part in a personal programme.

Concerns for Arsenal ahead of City clash?

Sky Sports' Oliver Yew:

Arsenal's potentially season-defining clash with Manchester City, live on Sky Sports, is now just nine days away and Mikel Arteta has a number of injury concerns to contend with.

The international break is already a nervy time for club managers as they cross their fingers that their players come back from their national teams unscathed. That concern will have been brought forward for Arteta with Saka the latest Gunner to have withdrawn from international duty.

He joins Brazil duo Gabriel Martinelli and Gabriel Magalhaes in heading back to Arsenal, while Thomas Partey and Takehiro Tomiyasu stayed with the club to continue their recoveries from injury and feature in a behind closed door friendly against QPR.

There was hope from Arsenal that they'd have a fully fit squad to choose from after the break with long-term absentee Jurrien Timber also back in training and closing in on a return.

That may still be the case and the Gunners' international absentees may be a blessing in disguise with Arteta having a lot more of his squad around as preparations ramp up for that crucial game at the Etihad on Sunday March 31 (kick-off 4.30pm).

But that will not stop the nerves as Arteta keeps a close eye on the fitness of his top stars.

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