England manager Sarina Wiegman said it was “really disappointing” not to be able to select defender Steph Houghton for upcoming games against Canada, Spain and Germany because of injury.
Houghton returned from a four-month absence in January but has had another recent setback with her injury.
The 33-year-old Manchester City captain is yet to feature for Wiegman.
“You are always disappointed when you can’t bring in a player who you really want to bring in”, said Wiegman.
“It is really disappointing because she has been out for a long time already. She still needs a little more time to get fit again.
“She was really, really disappointed of course, but you have to do smart things too. If you need more time to get fit you have to take that time otherwise you’ll be out for a longer period and that’s what we don’t want.”
Goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck and defender Lucy Bronze have returned from injury and will play under Wiegman for the first time, while Arsenal’s Leah Williamson – who captained England in September – also returns after missing November’s camp.
Chelsea forward Beth England misses out through injury as Wiegman has named a 24-player squad for the inaugural Arnold Clark Cup tournament, hosted by England, and which begins on 17 February.
Asked whether Bronze will be in contention for the captaincy, Weigman said: “I will first discuss this with the players when they come in.
“Bronze is delighted [to be in the squad] and I am too. Finally we can start working together.”
|Germany v Spain – 17 February (14:30) Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough||England v Canada – 17 February (19:30) Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough|
|England v Spain – 20 February (15:15) Carrow Road, Norwich||Canada v Germany – 20 February (20:15) Carrow Road, Norwich|
|Spain v Canada – 23 February (14:30) Molineux, Wolverhampton||England v Germany – 23 February (14:30) Molineux, Wolverhampton|
‘We will play lots of players’
England have won all six matches since Wiegman took charge in the summer, with an aggregate score of 53-0 that includes a record 20-0 win against Latvia in her side’s last match in November.
However, these matches will be the first time England have faced a team in the top 10 of the Fifa world rankings under the Dutch coach – Germany are ranked third, Olympic champions Canada sixth and Spain ninth.
But with three games in six days and a number of players returning from recent injuries, Wiegman said it was important to “manage players’ loads” and there will be “opportunities” for other players.
“We will play lots of players and we will have to manage some load,” she added. “Three games in six days is a lot. It gives an opportunity to give other players minutes and to get to know each other better.
“I’m looking forward to playing against three world-class teams. It will be the perfect way to begin a big year, and we will get a lot of important information from training and the matches ahead of the Euros.
“I know the players will be excited to test themselves against strong opponents.”
This month’s fixtures and World Cup qualifiers against North Macedonia and Northern Ireland in April are the only games before England host the European Championship in July.
Asked whether players who have not yet been selected under Wiegman can still earn a place in the side for the Euros, she added: “A selection always starts with performing so when you really perform well then the chance of being selected is there. I hope we didn’t miss any players yet. I don’t think we did. We are very well informed.
“If in April we think one player has done really, really well and she can be a good player for our squad, then I wouldn’t hesitate to select her.”
Goalkeepers: Mary Earps (Manchester United), Hannah Hampton (Aston Villa), Ellie Roebuck (Manchester City)
Defenders: Millie Bright (Chelsea), Lucy Bronze (Manchester City), Jess Carter (Chelsea), Niamh Charles (Chelsea), Rachel Daly (Houston Dash), Alex Greenwood (Manchester City), Demi Stokes (Manchester City), Leah Williamson (Arsenal), Lotte Wubben-Moy (Arsenal)
Midfielders: Fran Kirby (Chelsea), Jordan Nobbs (Arsenal), Jill Scott (Aston Villa, loan from Manchester City), Georgia Stanway (Manchester City), Keira Walsh (Manchester City), Katie Zelem (Manchester United)
Forwards: Lauren Hemp (Manchester City), Beth Mead (Arsenal), Nikita Parris (Arsenal), Alessia Russo (Manchester United), Ella Toone (Manchester United), Ellen White (Manchester City)
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