STAND-IN skipper Steven Gerrard insists England’s players believe they can top their Euro 2008 qualifying group.
Steve McClaren’s side have slipped out of the top two following their woeful home draw with Macedonia and defeat in Croatia in October.
And another sub-standard result against Israel in Tel Aviv next month would leave England in danger of not being part of the finals in Austria and Switzerland.
But Gerrard, who will lead the team out in tomorrow’s friendly international with Spain at Old Trafford, believes England have the ability to win all their remaining group games.
The Liverpool captain said: “Looking at the bigger picture, we are confident we can qualify. It is important we try to win all the rest of our games in the group. Defeats and draws are no good.
“We know we have the talent to win all of our remaining games. Croatia was a slip-up and a big improvement is needed for the remaining qualifying games.
“But I remain confident we can go and top this group despite having had a few setbacks – and there is still a big belief in our dressing room we can win all the remaining games.”
Gerrard admitted England have lacked consistency so far under McClaren but views the game with Spain as ideal preparation for the more important tasks ahead.
He said: “This game is perfect preparation. We’ve got some really big qualifiers next month, a big challenge ahead to top the group, and a tough friendly like this is ideal.
“The games we have played under Steve McClaren have been a bit hit and miss. We’ve put in some good performances and in a couple we’ve fell a bit short.
“But what Steve is trying to achieve is a really strong team who work hard for each other so it is going to take a bit of time.
“We put in a really good performance against Holland and we will be looking to build on that against Spain. This is important to put us in good stead for the games next month.
“If you look at all the players in the squad, all are in decent form for their clubs and we are going to try to translate that onto the international level.”
Gerrard will skipper the side as John Terry is not likely to play a major part after only returning from injury as a substitute for Chelsea against Charlton at the weekend.
He said: “It will be a really proud feeling to captain the team, but I’d like to think I play like a leader.
“I’m captain for Liverpool and will try to do the things I’ve been doing for my club.
“To lead the team out will be a special feeling. I’ve experienced it once before. Just to put on an England shirt when not captain is a proud moment.
“But to walk out at the front and lead the boys into battle will be that extra bit special.”
Meanwhile, Wigan goalkeeper Chris Kirkland has become the latest member of England’s squad to be ruled out of the Spain game.
Kirkland has not recovered from a shoulder injury and will remain with his club instead of linking up with Steve McClaren’s party.
The news is likely to mean a place on the bench for Manchester United’s Ben Foster who has impressed in two seasons on loan at Watford.
Andrew Johnson (ankle), Wayne Bridge (thigh) and Jermaine Jenas (ankle) have withdrawn while Owen Hargreaves has also confirmed he will not play in the final match before England’s crucial Euro 2008 qualifier in Israel next month.