Owen needs to prove fitness
Saturday 04 October 2008
David Beckham is expected to retain his place in Fabio Capello's England squad when it is announced tomorrow ahead of the World Cup qualification matches against Kazakhstan and Belarus. At the same time, Michael Owen will have another chance to prove his fitness with Capello's assistant, and England's general manager, Franco Baldini due to watch Newcastle United play Everton just a few hours before the 23-man squad is announced.
Capello and Baldini will both watch Wigan Athletic host Middlesbrough today and then travel to Ewood Park to take in Blackburn Rovers against Manchester United. Tomorrow Capello will be at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea play Aston Villa – which will represent another chance for Ashley Young to try to force his way into the squad. Capello was due to watch Owen play last weekend but fog prevented his plane from taking off and he went to Craven Cottage instead. That he is sending Baldini to Goodison Park shows that Owen, who was omitted for the previous qualifiers, does have a chance to force his way in.
With Owen Hargreaves, again, and the goalkeeper Paul Robinson expected to be excluded because of injury there are opportunities. Capello may include Theo Walcott among his midfield players – given the 19-year-old scored his hat-trick against Croatia coming off the right-wing – which would free up one of the striking berths. Robinson's place is likely to go to Wigan's Chris Kirkland.
Most under threat if changes are made are Stewart Downing – so dismal against Andorra – and David Bentley who is enduring a difficult season at Spurs. Jimmy Bullard is unlikely to retain his place given Gerrard's return to fitness although Jermaine Jenas could drop out.
Although Beckham has been usurped by Walcott, and is enduring a tricky time in the United States, and with a resurgent Shaun Wright-Phillips pushing for a recall, the 33-year-old still retains Capello's faith. He regards the former England captain as giving the squad different options, especially through his ability at set-pieces, his passing range and his experience.
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