The England manager, Sven Goran Eriksson, flew to Germany yesterday to watch Bayern Munich play Stuttgart in the Bundesliga. Good news for Owen Hargreaves, not so encouraging for Jermaine Jenas.
As the injuries build up, so do the permutations for Eriksson's World Cup finals squad. Who to take and who to leave behind - especially now that his squad is effectively 22 men with the issue of Wayne Rooney's fitness unlikely to be decided until after the tournament has started. On Monday, he will name "26 or 27" players, Eriksson said yesterday, which will mean three or four named reserves added to the first-choice 23.
Eriksson spoke to Michael Owen on Tuesday and was told the Newcastle United striker could play on Sunday against Chelsea. The 26-year-old is fit though, Eriksson added, "we don't know if he is match fit". "He might play Sunday, he might not but it doesn't matter."
In the meantime Eriksson will have to select the rest of his squad in the knowledge that he must send the final version to Fifa by 15 May and can change only one injured player up to 24 hours before the Paraguay game on 10 June.
If he uses that facility then it appears Eriksson will do so in the case of Ledley King rather than Rooney. The Manchester United striker looks certain to be a member of the squad for the duration of the World Cup but Eriksson cannot extend the luxury to King who broke the fourth metatarsal of his left foot on 15 April. "You don't want to rule out Wayne Rooney until it is 100 per cent sure," Eriksson said. "Some other players are important but you have to take it case by case."
King's absence would leave England short of a second holding midfield player behind Michael Carrick, hence Eriksson's trip. He seems certain to take five strikers which leaves room for only seven midfielders - bad luck for Jenas who will compete with Hargreaves for the final place.
Wes Brown could be another late replacement for King among the eight defenders. In goal, Eriksson has problems with the third choice, Robert Green, who has not played for Norwich City since 4 April. Liverpool's Scott Carson is next choice but he finished the season on loan at Sheffield Wednesday battling Championship relegation.
The other major question is whether to take Shaun Wright-Phillips. A bad year at Chelsea has been compounded by the rise at Tottenham Hotspur of Aaron Lennon, who scored a brilliant goal on Sunday with Eriksson in attendance. There is a feeling among Eriksson's staff that he is too young - but do not rule out a charge from Middlesbrough's Stewart Downing.
Taking five strikers is now a near certainty given injury to Rooney and Darren Bent should clinch his place. When he finalises his provisional squad this weekend, Eriksson will know that choosing the reserves will be just as important as picking the rest.
England's probable squad
Probable World Cup squad - with injuries/permutations and reserves
Robert Green (Ankle injury. Hasn't played since 8 April.)
Ledley King (Broken metatarsal. Could take Wes Brown.)
Shaun Wright-Phillips (Out of favour at Chelsea. Stewart Downing or even Aaron Lennon an outside chance to replace him)
Owen Hargreaves (Battling for the seventh midfield place with Spurs' Jermaine Jenas.
Michael Owen (Recovering from a broken metatarsal. Could play in Newcastle's last game on Sunday.)
Wayne Rooney (Recovering from a broken metatarsal. Will be named in the squad.)
Eriksson will take "three or four".
Scott Carson (the 20-year-old goalkeeper plays for Liverpool but ended the season on loan to Sheffield Wednesday)
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