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If an opponent injures Harry Kane before World Cup they’ll be a national hate figure on par with Ronaldo after 2006

PICTURE the scene at  Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

The ball drops between Mateo Kovacic and Thomas Partey in the middle of the pitch and they come steaming in for the tackle.

Harry Kane is vital to England’s hopes in Qatar

But just before they collide a thought flashes into the brain of both players — the World Cup is only two weeks away, so don’t get injured now.

And that is a scenario which will be repeated throughout every major league in Europe and South America over the coming days.

Because staging a World Cup in the middle of the domestic season almost guarantees non-contact football in the build-up to Qatar.

Now I am not for one moment suggesting that either Kovacic or Partey will be deliberately jumping out of tackles when Chelsea and Arsenal square up in this huge London derby.

Nor am I singling those two out for a lack of courage, because it could just as easily be Tyrone Mings versus Marcus Rashford or Harry Kane versus Virgil van Dijk this weekend.

In fact, there are dozens of potential accidents waiting to happen and it will be almost impossible for players not to subconsciously take it easy in spite of all the promises of giving 100 per cent commitment to their teams.

How can they think otherwise when the Argentine FA asks clubs to rest all of their players ahead of their World Cup opener against Saudi Arabia on November 22?

England boss Gareth Southgate hasn’t had the brass neck to make a similar request but deep down inside will be praying for his top stars to be “rotated” this weekend.

Only the other day Chelsea defender Reece James appeared on the back page of The Sun talking about his World Cup hopes despite being on crutches and with his knee in a brace.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola says Kyle Walker and Kalvin Phillips could be available for Qatar despite not having played for the best part of two months.

And now Ben Chilwell is a major doubt after pulling a hamstring during a Champions League dead rubber on Wednesday night.

The way things are going, Southgate won’t have too much work to do to whittle his 55-man shortlist down to 26 next week.

Exactly how many players can he afford to gamble on if England are to stand a chance of being contenders?

England begin their World Cup campaign in under two weeks

Captain Kane insists he won’t ease up to stay in shape for Qatar, and of course he has to say that.

But he will have seen Spurs pal Son Heung-min suffering a fractured eye socket the other night and know he is only an accidental clash of heads away from having his own World Cup hopes wrecked against   Liverpool on Sunday.

Imagine being the opponent who crocks the England skipper days before he is due to board the plane for Doha.

He will become a  national hate figure on a par with winker Cristiano Ronaldo when he got Wayne Rooney sent off at the 2006 World Cup.

When Manchester United defender Raphael Varane broke down in tears after suffering a hamstring injury  at Chelsea two weeks ago it was not about the fact he would miss the Europa League game against Sheriff Tiraspol.

He was crying as his World Cup hopes were in the balance.

There are 832 players off to Qatar the week after next. And all of them  will  be sweating like Homer Simpson in a sauna between now and then.

Give me a break

NOT sure how this one has passed me by but I have only just noticed that breakdancing is to be included at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

This will see rival B-Boys and B-Girls  competing in 60-second ‘throw down’ battles to decide the medals.

Not being  funny, but is breakdancing even still a thing?

Didn’t it go out of  fashion in the 1980s along with stone-washed denim, shoulder pads and the Rubik’s Cube?

Maybe they could invite Snoop Dogg to adjudicate, throwing up the possibility of the first Olympic judge to fail a drug test.

Max hits a Ted end

FORMULA ONE world champ Max Verstappen is boycotting Sky because he doesn’t like pit-lane pundit Ted Kravitz.

The thin-skinned Dutchman has been backed by his Red Bull bosses, even though they are happy to take the broadcasting  millions which allowed them to break their annual budget last season.

Good job that Roy Keane doesn’t do motor racing.

Then Verstappen really would have something to cry about.

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