The new England manager, Roy Hodgson, increasingly believes that he cannot select both Chelsea's John Terry and Manchester United's Rio Ferdinand in England's European Championship squad and will have to make a choice between the two defenders when he makes his selection a week today.
It is the major issue facing Hodgson and one that he has precious little time to address in detail before he picks his 23 players for the tournament in Poland and Ukraine. While no final decisions have been made it is understood that he is considering the possibility of leaving out Terry, whose removal as England captain prefaced Fabio Capello's departure as manager in February.
Terry's court case on a charge of racially aggravated abuse of Ferdinand's brother, Anton, on 9 July, looms over the England squad selection, which has been moved to a week today rather than Monday, immediately after the end of the season, in order to give Hodgson more time in making his decision.
The England manager did not attend the game between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield last night, simply because his schedule is so packed over the next few days. Hodgson has been given leave by his club West Bromwich Albion to have two to three days this week on England duty ahead of his last game in charge of the club against Arsenal on Sunday.
He is yet to speak to Terry and Ferdinand about their attitude towards being in the same squad for potentially more than five weeks, as Hodgson said he would in his first press conference as England manager eight days ago. Whether he does so before the end of the week will be a matter for him, but it is not inconceivable he could make the decision without consulting.
With Ray Lewington already appointed to his staff for the duration of the European Championship, it remains for Hodgson to add one more key name. It is his intention that he will appoint a younger figure, with the most likely candidate being Phil Neville, 35, the Everton captain who has won 59 caps for England and played at two European Championships, in 2000 and 2004. The squad that Hodgson picks is expected to be a more experienced, familiar group of players than the one with which he approaches the next World Cup qualification campaign. He has precious little time to scout players in the 16 days he has between his appointment and picking the squad and has opted to take the safer option
Ukraine, England's final Group D opponents, on 19 June in Donetsk, announced their squad for the tournament yesterday. The coach, Oleg Blokhin, included the 35-year-old Andrei Shevchenko, who scored against England in qualifying for the World Cup in April 2009. Germany, the Netherlands and Ireland are among those who have already named their squads.
There was bad news for champions Spain who face the prospect of being without defender Carles Puyol after it was announced he will need six weeks to recover from a right knee injury.
Roy's boys: Possible squad
Hart (Man City), Foster (West Bromwich, loan), Carson (Bursaspor)
Richards (Man City), Walker (Spurs), Ferdinand (Man Utd), Cahill (Chelsea), Lescott (Man City), Smalling (Man Utd), Cole (Chelsea), Baines (Everton)
Walcott (Arsenal), Lennon, Parker (both Spurs), Lampard (Chelsea), Gerrard (Liverpool), Barry (Man City), Young (Man Utd), Milner (Man City)
Rooney (Man Utd), Crouch (Stoke), Welbeck (Man Utd), Sturridge (Chelsea)