Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard appear set to be paired together in central midfield for England in tomorrow's World Cup qualifier against Kazakhstan, with Fabio Capello deciding that, after watching the players in training this week, there is no reason why the two cannot form an effective partnership especially against such opposition at home.
Capello was still mulling over his options last night – and spent part of the evening examining a DVD of the Kazakhs' match against Croatia last month – but he appears to have decided that the game at Wembley should represent a crucial test for the pairing. However, a final decision will not be taken until tomorrow.
It means that Gareth Barry, who has impressed Capello, may miss out – although he could also play on the left alongside Lampard and Gerrard. If Barry does not start the England manager will stress to the midfielder that the decision is not a reflection on his performance. Indeed, such is his importance it is likely that Barry will be recalled, come what may, for next Wednesday's more testing encounter away to Belarus.
John Terry also hopes to be included for that game, having told Capello yesterday that he fully expects his back problem to have improved sufficiently to allow him to board the plane to Minsk with the rest of the squad on Tuesday morning.
The England captain has, however, been ruled out of consideration for tomorrow's match with Matthew Upson regarded as the best option to take his place while Rio Ferdinand will be awarded the armband.
It is not certain Terry's back complaint, which has bothered him for the past week, after he played on a hard pitch for Chelsea in Romania last Wednesday and against Aston Villa last Sunday, will have improved sufficiently, but unless his condition deteriorates in the next couple of days Capello will give him every chance of recovering. It is unlikely that Terry, who broke down during a full 11-a-side training match on Wednesday, will be released from the squad. Also missing out on that practice match was Emile Heskey, who is also suffering from a back problem, but the striker has recovered and took a full part in training yesterday morning.
Capello is planning to make changes from the team that won so impressively in Croatia last month – partly with Wednesday's match also in mind – but has to weigh that up against his desire for a convincing performance at home where he feels England are lacking in confidence and have been intimidated by their own supporters. He said before the game in Zagreb that it was, at present, easier for them to play away from home.
Capello has also been encouraged by the response he has had, again, from his squad this week. Although he is adamant that the players should stay grounded and forget about what happened in Croatia, the match is starting to appear to be a watershed moment for the squad. Certainly, the players are far more in tune with what the Italian is asking them to do.
His big task now would appear to be to find a solution to the Gerrard-Lampard question. Capello is a great admirer of both players and regards them as "world-class". But he is also puzzled as to how they have not worked together for England and is determined to try and find an answer.
A key decision Capello will have to mak is how to handle Ruslan Baltiev, Kazakhstan's most creative player, who has been likened to Luka Modric. If he is deemed a great threat, it may be that England will go with a holding midfielder after al,l which would mean including Barry and positioning Gerrard on the left, ahead of other choices such as Stewart Downing and Shaun Wright-Phillips. At present Capello is minded not to do that.Reuse content