Butland and Ruddy neck and neck for England place

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England boss Roy Hodgson is keeping his cards close to his chest over his starting XI for tonight’s friendly against Italy.

Speculation is rife over who will line up in goal in the absence of Joe Hart, who pulled out of the encounter in Berne.

Birmingham keeper Jack Butland is in contention with Norwich’s John Ruddy for the vacant spot. While both keepers would usually be given a chance to impress in a normal friendly, the teams have been limited to six substitutes apiece so Hodgson revealed he may have to be more frugal with his selections.

When asked who would start in goal, Hodgson told a press conference: “Jack and John are pretty much neck and neck for a place in the team and I’m still to decide whether I just choose one or whether possibly we have enough substitutes to enable me to give each of them

“I’m quite anxious we give quite a lot of the players the chance to get on the field and play but we’re only allowed six substitutes so in actual fact 19 players is still more than enough.

“We’ll still have more substitutes than we’re allowed.”

Theo Walcott pulled out of the squad yesterday due to a thigh problem, which he picked up in Arsenal’s friendly against Cologne.

However, Hodgson hopes the forward will recover from the knock in time for the Gunners’ opening Barclays Premier League encounter against Sunderland on Saturday.

“Theo took a kick on his thigh rather badly and we were rather hoping a couple of days would see him right again. I don’t think it’s a serious injury but it’s a kick that takes one or two days to recover from.”