Manager knows his choices risk ire of clubs' coaches

The good news is that at the £260m Friends Arena in Stockholm last night, the roof was already shut and, unlike in Warsaw last month, there is no chance of rain stopping play when England face Sweden tonight.

Around the new national stadium, a Swedish football federation project nine years in the making, there is still much building work to be done.

A work in progress, the Swedes admit but they are delighted to have the England team in town to open their new stadium officially. A work in progress is how one might describe Hodgson's team tonight, built from a squad that has already suffered five withdrawals and could, tonight, see as many as five debuts if Wilfried Zaha and Carl Jenkinson make second-half substitutes' appearances to go with debutants Raheem Sterling, Steven Caulker and Leon Osman who will all start.

To beat that, you have to go back to the friendly defeat by Australia in 2003 when Sven Goran Eriksson gave six players their debuts, including Wayne Rooney, on a night when he made 11 substitutions. Hodgson will be permitted to make just six by Fifa tonight and whoever plays the full 90 minutes will inevitably lead to criticism from some quarters.

The England manager admitted as much yesterday. "I risk those managers being a bit unhappy that their players have played the full 90 and someone else's have played 45 or 60," he said. "But there's not much I can do about that."

Tonight will be about Steven Gerrard's 100 caps, Sterling's debut at 17 and Osman's at the ripe old age of 31 but it is also another vital opportunity for Hodgson to check his options ahead of a pivotal few months next year. First up, a friendly in February against Brazil. Then comes the fifth World Cup qualifier against San Marino and after that a huge game against Montenegro, potentially England's biggest threat in Group H.

Hodgson said yesterday that he regarded Crystal Palace forward Zaha as a potential signing during his time in charge of West Bromwich. "He's very direct, very pacey and skilful with the ball. He has an eye for goal. These are the sort of qualities that we think we need in our front group of players." A debut and a good performance tonight and he might find himself edging into Hodgson's plans for the spring.