Fabio Capello will risk the anger of Premier League managers this Sunday by selecting his strongest possible squad for England's last two World Cup qualifiers despite the team having already made it to South Africa next summer. The Italian plans to make few changes to the squad he will take to Ukraine next week.
England face Ukraine in Dnipropetrovsk on Saturday, 10 October and Belarus four days later having already won eight out of eight in World Cup qualification. However, the England manager is determined that his team will protect the competitive element of group six by putting out their best possible side against Ukraine.
That will be good news for Croatia who are in second place in the group, two points ahead of Ukraine with whom it will be a straight battle for second place. But it is unlikely to please the Premier League's top managers. If fit, the likes of Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard are all expected to be on the five-hour flight to Dnipropetrovsk.
Capello is unlikely to play as many of his big names against Belarus in the final game at Wembley because they have no chance of qualification. The Ukraine match has provoked so little excitement among broadcasters that it is anticipated the game will be shown live on the internet, via club websites, for a £5 fee and at selected cinemas.
Nevertheless, the game will feature a virtually full-strength England team. Capello's decision to pick the best players rather than an experimental squad is likely to make for an interesting scenario on Monday when some managers are sure to discourage their England players from joining up at the Grove hotel in Hertfordshire a day later.
In the past, Capello has taken a hardline stance, in particular with Gerrard and Ledley King, who he made report for medical examinations despite their clubs protesting on separate occasions that they were not fit to play.
Capello plans to watch five games in person across Saturday, Sunday and Monday. He will go to Bolton against Tottenham on Saturday afternoon followed by the 5.30pm kick-off between Manchester United and Sunderland. On Sunday he will watch Arsenal v Blackburn at 1.30pm and the Chelsea v Liverpool game at 4pm. Having named his squad on Monday night, he also plans to travel to Villa Park for Aston Villa's game against Manchester City.
There is set to be further disappointment for Michael Owen whose derby-winning goal against Manchester City will not be enough to get him in the squad. Capello is happy with Rooney, Jermain Defoe, Emile Heskey, Peter Crouch and Carlton Cole.
In the event of an injury crisis, there could be chances for Owen, as well as Gabriel Agbonlahor, Tom Huddlestone, Gary Cahill, Jermaine Jenas and Darren Bent. For Theo Walcott and Joe Cole, both recovering from long-term injuries, the game has probably come too early.Reuse content