Fabio Capello last night broke his silence on the John Terry affair, declaring his captain "innocent until proven guilty" and available for the forthcoming friendlies against Spain and Sweden.
England's manager has the backing of the Football Association in his desire to include Terry, although he might not start either match.
Rio Ferdinand, whose younger brother Anton is a key figure in the police investigation into an alleged racist comment by Terry, will be left out again from the squad named this evening, even though Capello admits that he needs games to improve his form and fitness.
On Friday morning, the England manager met the Club England executives David Bernstein, Alex Horne, Adrian Bevington and Sir Trevor Brooking. Capello and Bevington then travelled to Chelsea's training ground at Cobham and spoke to Terry. "He was happy," Capello said.
"I spoke also with [Chelsea's manager Andre] Villas-Boas and he told me John Terry would play at Blackburn. For this reason I said there is no problem with John Terry at this moment. We need to wait [for] what will happen about the FA investigation and the police investigation, but I can tell you he is innocent until proven guilty.
"This is a really important thing for me and the FA," he added. "He is captain, he is with us and I want to see the other players when they play at the top level."
While it is diplomatically convenient to leave out Ferdinand, Capello does not believe there will be any resentment towards Terry from other players in the squad. He was keen to stress, without prejudicing the current police investigation, that in his experience of English football "racist problems between the players do not exist". Capello has also spoken to Manchester United's Ferdinand, who he says "is not in a good moment of form". But Terry may not start the friendlies – in fact he could possibly play as little as one half against Sweden – because Capello is keen for Gary Cahill, Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka to stake a claim for next summer's European Championships.
Ferdinand's young United team-mate Phil Jones will be used either at right-back, where he played the last game against Montenegro, or as a defensive midfielder to disrupt Spain's close passing game.
As Steven Gerrard, Jack Wilshere, Ashley Young and Tom Cleverley are all injured, Everton's Jack Rodwell could be called up. Arsenal's 18-year-old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain may be promoted from the Under-21s.
Wayne Rooney will not be in the squad as other attacking options are investigated, with Chelsea's Daniel Sturridge in line to win a first cap.
The FA, having received a four-page report from Uefa about Rooney's sending-off in Montenegro, are confident that his three-match ban for next summer's tournament will be reduced on appeal and there is no chance of it being extended: if Uefa were to raise that possibility by counter-appealing, the FA would withdraw. They are also playing down the likelihood of Rooney travelling to Switzerland to make a personal appeal, which would have to be done with the agreement of Manchester United.
So England could well face the world champions Spain without their captain and their best player. "It's a risk," Capello admitted, agreeing that Spain are one of the best teams he has seen. "A lot of [their] players are really good when you've got the ball, and when you need to win the ball back. They moved the style from Barcelona to the national team."
It is not, however, a style that he feels England are ready to copy.
Squad (probable): Hart, Green, Carson; Johnson, Walker, Cahill, Jagielka, Terry, Lescott, Cole, Baines; Jones, Parker, Lampard, Rodwell, Barry, Milner, Walcott, Downing,Johnson, Bent, Carroll, Welbeck, Zamora, Sturridge.Reuse content