Premier League clubs fear injuries to England players on North Macedonia’s pitch

The Todor Proeski National Arena will play host to the North Macedonia vs England encounter
The Toše Proeski Arena will play host to the North Macedonia vs England encounter - PA/Nick Potts

Premier League clubs are waiting nervously to find out whether or not their England stars avoid injuries on North Macedonia’s controversial pitch.

North Macedonia were forced to relay the turf at the Tose Proeski stadium around six weeks ago after Uefa banned the use of the previous surface for European club games in August.

Italy received an apology from North Macedonia in September for the state of the pitch and England must now hope the issue has been solved by the laying of a new surface for Monday night’s dead rubber European Championship qualifier.

England trained in London before flying to North Macedonia on Sunday night and Southgate had not seen the pitch before conducting his pre-game media duties.

But Telegraph Sport understands that officials at Premier League clubs are aware of fears over the surface and are now nervously hoping their players do not return with injuries.

Those who stepped on to the pitch on Sunday night described it as being “rock-solid” and it is understood both teams have been given guidelines on where they should warm-up ahead of kick-off to help protect the new surface.

Southgate was diplomatic when asked about the pitch, saying: “I know they’ve relaid it. I would imagine it hasn’t quite knitted, but we’ll see.

“That’s why you want to make sure you’re qualified well in advance. We said that right at the start of the qualifying campaign, you’re never quite sure what you’re going to get away from home.”

A close-up view of the pitch that is causing players and clubs some worry
A close-up view of the pitch that is causing players and clubs some worry - PA/Nick Potts
North Macedonia pitch
Will this pitch hold together during Monday's encounter? Many a club will be hoping so - Action Images via Reuters/Peter Cziborra

Asked whether or not the pitch would impact his team selection and prompt him to protect players, Southgate added: “No, we wouldn’t take any chances with players.

“Jarrod Bowen hasn’t travelled. He was just feeling something after training and we didn’t have time to really assess it. It would probably need a scan to give us the confidence that we’re not taking a chance. We never take a chance with a player, really.”

In September, Italy forward Ciro Immobile complained about the pitch in Skopje by saying: “Playing on a pitch like this could be dangerous. We knew it was going to be a tough game, but on this field it becomes even tougher.”

Following the 1-1 draw with Italy, North Macedonia midfielder Eljif Elmas said: “It is a great result, because we played on a frankly shameful pitch. I can only apologise to all Italians, to all of Europe. You cannot play football on a pitch like this. It was a problem for us just as much as it was for Italy.”

The pitch is not the only problem teams have experienced at the Tose Proeski stadium. Three years ago, Tottenham had to change the goalposts ahead of Europa League qualifier after noticing they had been too small.

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