Fabio Capello has defended his decision to send five key men back to their clubs ahead of England's sell-out friendly with Ghana at Wembley tomorrow night.
The Football Association confirmed yesterday that Chelsea trio John Terry, Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard had returned to Stamford Bridge, Wayne Rooney had gone back to Manchester United and Michael Dawson was heading to Tottenham after starting Saturday's Euro 2012 qualifying win over Wales.
It is a move that leaves Capello open to accusations of bias given the 20 players left - Aston Villa's Kyle Walker has been ruled out through injury - are all equally important to their own clubs.
But the Italian insists he is not favouring England's Champions League representatives, merely acknowledging their extra workload during a period of the season when they are most at risk of injury.
"I decided the five players to let go because they had just played four games in 10 days," said Capello.
"I respect the players and the clubs and I have done this because the players are important for the national team and the clubs.
"The players in the Premier League are only playing three games, not four. This is a big difference."
In fact, Capello is incorrect as Tottenham's Champions League decider with AC Milan took place a week before Chelsea and Manchester United were able to secure their last-eight berths.
Nevertheless, the England boss feels he is making a point by retaining Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe and Aaron Lennon, who will all hope to play a part in Spurs' mouthwatering quarter-final first leg encounter with Real Madrid next Tuesday.
"We still have three players from Tottenham who didn't play on Saturday," he argued.
"For this reason they are only playing three games in eight days."
However, Avram Grant would presumably not be too impressed about having Champions League commitments placed above West Ham's survival fight should anything happen to Scott Parker at Wembley, if the midfielder recovers from the calf injury to take his place in Capello's intended starting line-up.
And Manchester City, who are likely to have three men in Capello's England XI including skipper Gareth Barry, are hardly lacking incentive either this season given their desperation for a top-four finish, and the Blues have already lost Micah Richards and Jerome Boateng to injury during the present international break.
If those fears are not enough, Capello also has to pacify the England supporters, who will make up the majority of the crowd despite Ghana selling an incredible 21,000, the largest official away allocation ever at Wembley given Scotland's past invasions have been very much unofficial.
"It will be a really interesting game for the fans," said Capello.
"These matches are important for a manager to understand the value of some players.
"When you play here, at Wembley, it is really important to understand what happens because the England shirt is really heavy.
"Also, if some important players are injured, I will know who the substitutes should be."
Capello confirmed Phil Jagielka will partner Gary Cahill in central defence, with Leighton Baines occupying the left-back berth.
There will also be a second England start for Liverpool new boy Andy Carroll, who is still trying to regain full fitness after a thigh injury, hence his absence at the Millennium Stadium.
"Andy is a really good player but he needs more games to be the same player that we knew three months ago," said Capello.
"Tomorrow I hope he will fight and run and will do some things during the game that I remember he can do."
Carroll might not have played at the weekend, but his name was still part of the argument over England's likely squad at the European Under-21 Championships in Denmark next summer.
Jack Wilshere, whose presence in tomorrow's starting line-up depends upon Parker's availability, is also set to be a key member of Stuart Pearce's squad, even though Arsene Wenger is unhappy at the prospect of the 19-year-old being called up for both the seniors - who play Switzerland on June 4 - and the Under-21s at the same time.
"I think these two players will be very important in this tournament," said Capello.
"For this reason I support Stuart Pearce in his decision."Reuse content