John Terry is in Fabio Capello's provisional England squad for the internationals against Spain and Sweden this month, although the Italian's deep uncertainty about whether to select him means the Chelsea captain is only 50/50 to play.
Capello will consult with the Football Association this week, as he attempts to balance the scale of the racism accusation Terry faces with a profound reluctance to punish a player who may yet prove to be innocent. If Terry is left out of the squad it will look as if the player – stripped of the captaincy last February after the Vanessa Perroncel affair – is being judged by England.
Terry has told Capello that he is desperate to play and he has insisted on several occasions in conversations with his international manager that he has done no wrong.
Capello understands the seriousness of the allegations against Terry made by QPR's Anton Ferdinand – now the subject of a Metropolitan Police investigation – and wants to see what the FA's position is on the matter and what evidence it has. He will speak to officials in the next 48 hours.
Capello was quick to act after the Perroncel crisis, stripping Terry of the captaincy, after a cursory 10-minute meeting with him at Wembley, because he said the issue would damage the team. Perroncel is a former partner of Wayne Bridge, who chose to retire from international football at that juncture. Terry was reinstated earlier this year because of the injury problems endured by his successor, Rio Ferdinand.
That convoluted history simply adds to the Italian's uncertainty over how to proceed. He is aware of the ramifications of allowing Terry to play – and particularly captain the side – if he is later found to have committed an offence, and his approach is to wait until the last available moment before deciding on a definite plan of action.
The provisional squad of around 30 players is not made public and the Italian will not have to announce his final squad for the friendly fixtures with Spain a week on Saturday and Sweden three days later until 8pm on Sunday evening. By that stage, Capello is hoping that enough secondary evidence may have emerged to make the final decision a more comfortable one. There remains a possibility that the enquiries of both the FA and the Metropolitan Police will have reached a conclusion by that stage, with the former understood to be keen to conduct its investigations as quickly as possible.
Terry stands accused of abusing Ferdinand during Chelsea's 1-0 defeat at QPR 11 days ago, an allegation the Chelsea captain has stringently denied. He insists the two have been close for a number of years and that video evidence which appears to show him using a racist term forms part of a larger conversation.
The remaining places in the squad are contingent on injuries. Capello's medical team are waiting for reports on Manchester United's Chris Smalling, Ashley Young and Tom Cleverley – though only Cleverley seems to be a contender, based on the United manager Sir Alex Ferguson's injury bulletins. Steven Gerrard's foot infection will rule the Liverpool captain out of the squad, but his former team-mate, Joe Cole – on loan at Lille – is thought to be in contention, along with Chelsea's Daniel Sturridge and Everton's Jack Rodwell.
Terry, omitted from Andre Villas-Boas's side for Chelsea's disappointing 1-1 draw with Genk on Tuesday night, is expected to feature for the weekend's trip to Blackburn, with his club continuing their stance of staunch support for their captain.
This approach is born out of practicalities as much as anything. The Portuguese has now witnessed his side fail to win any of their last three games, and, though he remains committed to the attacking approach which has led to such a turbulent start to the season, both the club's manager and its players are well aware that such a poor run of form cannot be allowed to continue.
"We cannot afford to drop too many points, because we are already behind," admitted the goalkeeper Petr Cech. "Blackburn could be a real turning point for us because it is a difficult place to go. We had two results we didn't wish for, the loss against Arsenal and the draw to Genk. But the best way to forget about this is to win games.
"At the moment we get punished almost every time we make mistakes and we are making too many in terms of team defending and individually."