Sven resists the temptation to experiment

Click to follow
The Independent Football

Sven Goran Eriksson ignored the opportunity to introduce any new names into his squad last night for England's friendly against Spain in Madrid on Wednesday.

Sven Goran Eriksson ignored the opportunity to introduce any new names into his squad last night for England's friendly against Spain in Madrid on Wednesday. Having previously announced that Middlesbrough's exciting youngster Stewart Downing and Carlton Cole would be on duty for the Under-21 side again, he left out Crystal Palace's uncapped striker Andy Johnson from an otherwise predictable party of 22.

The only minor surprise was that Phil Neville retained his place ahead of Newcastle's Kieron Dyer, who is now fit again. Injuries to Tottenham's Ledley King and the third-choice goalkeeper, Robert Green of Norwich, have opened up vacancies for Matthew Upson as a reserve centre-half and Liverpool's Chris Kirkland.

David Beckham, injured and suspended for the previous game, in Azerbaijan, hopes to join his Real Madrid team-mate Michael Owen on their home ground if he comes through a Spanish league game against Albacete this evening. Real will be less enthusiastic, not wanting to jeopardise his fitness before their fixture at Barcelona next weekend.

It is disappointing that Downing has been denied his chance to solve England's persistent problem on the left side of midfield. Cole was also hoping to be promoted from the Under-21 side following an injury to his present club-mate Darius Vassell, who is out for three months. But both will have to hope that there are withdrawals over the next 48 hours.

Eriksson has tried more than a dozen players in the black hole on the left since beginning his reign with a 3-0 win over Spain at Villa Park almost four years ago. For the first two competitive games this season, Chelsea's full-back Wayne Bridge played there out of position and he will presumably continue to do so on Wednesday. When he was unfit for last month's World Cup games against Wales and Azerbaijan, Eriksson used Wayne Rooney as a third striker behind Owen and Jermain Defoe, who did not gel as well as in their previous appearance together, the 2-1 win over Poland. The feeling was that three attackers would not work against stronger opposition, so Rooney may rejoin Owen in the front line.

Other absentees this time include Sol Campbell, Real's Jonathan Woodgate (what is the Spanish for sick-note?) and Steven Gerrard. John Terry's outstanding form for Chelsea makes him the obvious choice to replace Campbell, while Shaun Wright-Phillips will be hoping for the chance denied him against Azerbaijan, when Jermaine Jenas was preferred as Beckham's deputy on the right. If Beckham is not fit then, of the team that began the previous game with Spain, the only survivors starting in Madrid are likely to be Rio Ferdinand, Nicky Butt and Owen.

Like England, Wednesday's opponents are used to reaching the quarter-final stage of major tournaments and then grinding to a halt. Last summer's failure to do even that was received with glum resignation, followed by the resignation of the glum Inaki Saez as coach.

Luis Aragones, 66, took over, promising to restore some passion. However, his motivational tactics can sometimes go way over the top - as with his disparaging racist reference to Thierry Henry when trying to inspire the latter's Arsenal team-mate Jose Antonio Reyes before last month's World Cup match against Belgium, which Spain won 2-0.

Reyes and Liverpool's Xabi Alonso are also included in the Spanish squad.

Spain squad: Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Santiago Canizares (Valencia); Michel Salgado (Real Madrid), Asier del Horno (Bilbao), Carlos Marchena (Valencia), Enrique Romero (Deportivo), Carles Puyol (Barcelona), Pablo Ibanez (Atletico Madrid); Xabi Alonso (Liverpool), Xavi Hernandez (Barcelona), Joaquin Sanchez (Real Betis), Miguel Angel Angulo (Valencia), Ivan Helguera, Guti (both Real Madrid); Jose Antonio Reyes (Arsenal), Albert Luque (Deportivo), Raul (Real Madrid), Fernando Torres (Atletico Madrid).

England Squad

Paul Robinson (Tottenham)

David James (Manchester City)

Chris Kirkland (Liverpool)

Ashley Cole (Arsenal)

Matthew Upson (Birmingham)

Wayne Bridge (Chelsea)

John Terry (Chelsea)

Jamie Carragher (Liverpool)

Rio Ferdinand (Manchester Utd)

Gary Neville (Manchester Utd)

Phil Neville (Manchester Utd)

Jermaine Jenas (Newcastle Utd)

David Beckham (Real Madrid)

Owen Hargreaves (Bayern Mun)

Nicky Butt (Newcastle Utd)

Joe Cole (Chelsea)

Frank Lampard (Chelsea)

Shaun Wright-Phillips (Man City)

Wayne Rooney (Manchester Utd)

Alan Smith (Manchester Utd)

Michael Owen (Real Madrid)

Jermain Defoe (Tottenham)

Comments