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World Cup: James Maddison plays down fitness concerns

Midfielder James Maddison has announced that he expects to be fit for England's first match of the World Cup, against Iran on Monday.

The Leicester City schemer, who is priced at 66/1 to top the assist list in Qatar, was replaced in the first half during his side's 2-0 win against West Ham United, and fans had feared that he would be forced to withdraw from the squad just days after being named in Gareth Southgate's plans.

Maddison opened the scoring inside the first 10 minutes at the London Stadium, but fans have been worried since he was then replaced after complaining of a leg injury in the capital.

Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers said the playmaker was "fine" after the full-time whistle, and the 25-year-old believes he will be fit enough to start against Iran in England's opening match of Group B. You can back Maddison to start England's Group B opener at 6/1.

This could represent value, especially after Sam Matterface suggested the playmaker as a potential starter in our England preview video.

WhatEngland vs Iran, World Cup Group B
WhereKhalifa International Stadium, Doha
When13:00, Monday 21st November 2022
How to watchBBC 1
OddsEngland 4/11, Draw 15/4, Iran 8/1

At Wednesday's press conference in Qatar, Maddison said: "The injury is OK. We had a scan the day before we met up and it was a positive scan.

"The scan was a good scan and no major problem. I'll have to do a little bit of work with the physios here to get up to full speed.

"It shouldn't affect me playing in the first game. I might just have to do some separate work with the physios, but I'm hopeful I'll be fine."

Maddison relishing the opportunity

After a sensational start to the season, Maddison has been rewarded with the chance to showcase his skills on the world stage.

Maddison already has seven goals and four assists to his name this season, which is even more admirable considering Leicester's form for most of the campaign. Could he have a breakthrough tournament and be England's top scorer at 40/1?

While the former Norwich City ace is expected to have to settle for a place on the bench, he is confident he can have an impact in Qatar.

With the conditions set to play their part, Southgate may tinker with his starting XI during the games against the USA and Wales.

Competition for places is fierce

Competition for places is already strong throughout the squad, and wing-back Kieran Trippier says the atmosphere in camp is good as England try to win their second World Cup.

He added: "The mood is brilliant. We've got an absolutely fantastic football team.

"The team we have here at the FA and England are second to none. The set-up we got at the hotel it's been absolutely brilliant. It is all down to the finer things, like the little touches.

"I checked into my room, and there are little framed pictures of my little boy and my family. It is just little things like that.

"Everybody is in good spirits and can't wait to get going."

Maddison is 100/1 to win the Golden Ball award in Qatar, while he is 7/2 to score anytime against Iran in Monday's fixture at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha.

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Walker the only worry for Southgate

England took part in their first opening training session in Qatar ahead of the tournament, with the media allowed to watch the Three Lions in action.

Maddison's every move was closely watched throughout the session, while the spotlight was also on Manchester City defender Kyle Walker.

The defender took part in the session, hoping to prove that he can feature against Iran on Monday, but he confirmed he will not feature in England's opening fixture.

Walker has not played for the Citizens since the start of October, but he will hope to return to the fold in time for England's second game against the USA.

Club team-mate Kalvin Phillips was also involved in the training session as he looks to prove his fitness following shoulder surgery earlier this season.

England are 4/11 to pick up three points in their opening fixture, while the draw is 15/4 and Iran are available at 8/1.

Southgate's side are hoping to better their performance from the 2018 World Cup in Russia, where they reached the semi-finals before losing to Croatia.

The Three Lions are 4/1 to exit at the same stage, while readers can back them at 7/1 to finish as runner-up.

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