MIAMI (Reuters) - Frank Lampard is to captain England in the World Cup warm-up against Ecuador while Wayne Rooney will be in the starting lineup again to build his match fitness, manager Roy Hodgson said on Tuesday.
Lampard, who announced on Monday he was leaving Chelsea after 13 years with the Premier League team, has been linked with a move to a Major League Soccer club in the United States.
The 35-year-old midfielder, who will win his 104th cap at the Sun Life Stadium on Wednesday, is to lead an experimental England lineup against Ecuador with James Milner being deployed at right back in place of Glen Johnson.
Hodgson said he would change the team that beat Peru 3-0 at Wembley on Friday but added he would stick with Manchester United forward Rooney, the subject of media speculation over whether he deserves to start England’s opening World Cup game against Italy in Brazil later this month.
“The thinking behind Wayne starting a second game is quite simple,” Hodgson told a news conference.
”He only played 60 minutes the other day, he didn’t play many games before he came to join us. We think he is recovering his match fitness and we think starting the game and playing a part of the game will be to his advantage.
“We will see how long he plays and that will be based on how his fitness is progressing.”
Asked where Rooney would play, Hodgson said: ”There is a real obsession with Wayne which I don’t necessarily share. I am very happy to have him here as one of 23 players but I don’t have to share the obsession that he has to play here, or has to do that.
“As far as I am concerned I look at the players at my disposal. I decide what I think they need and we need from them and then I expect them to do it.”
Turning to midfielder Milner, Hodgson added: “He’s going to play right back tomorrow because I think he has the qualities to play there and I think there may be moments during the World Cup where we would like to use him there”.
With Kyle Walker missing out on the squad through injury Johnson, who has looked shaky in defense in recent games for club and country, has little competition.
Hodgson said he wanted to see Milner play there in case Johnson gets injured.
”He (Milner) is in the squad quite rightly as a right or left-sided midfielder and that is where we see him mostly but thanks to his ability to do other jobs we think it will be interesting to see how he gets on at right back against Ecuador.
“I have seen him play there for Manchester City. For me it was always obvious that if we needed someone to step in there he could do the job and Wednesday will be the moment to try it.”
Media reports suggest Hodgson could give Everton’s Ross Barkley, Southampton’s Luke Shaw and Arsenal pair Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain a chance to shine against Ecuador while also testing the fitness of Manchester United defender Phil Jones.
Lampard is excited about the emergence of England’s young guns and believes the competition for places is healthy.
“The good thing is we are arguing about where to play all these talented players, whether it be Wayne Rooney, Ross Barkley, Raheem Sterling, Ox (Oxlade-Chamberlain),” he said.
”They are the things we bemoaned a few years ago that we didn’t have that excitement in that squad and now we do. So lets embrace it.
“In training the lads look sharp, they look brilliant and let’s see what they can do,” added Lampard.
England are aiming to use the heat and humidity in Miami to prepare for the conditions in Manaus where they will take on the Italians in their first Group D game on June 14.
They also face Uruguay and Costa Rica at the World Cup while Ecuador take on France, Switzerland and Honduras in Group E.
England’s final warm-up game before they leave for Rio de Janeiro is against Honduras in Miami on Saturday.
Writing by Stephen Wood, editing by Martyn Herman and Tony Jimenez