Fabio Capello is ready to give Stephen Warnock an opportunity to prove his case as the reserve left-back for the World Cup. The Aston Villa defender is set to line up in England's final international warm-up fixture against Japan in Austria on Sunday, after the torrid night experienced by Leighton Baines against Mexico at Wembley.
Baines had established himself as the preferred back-up, though the inclusion of both men in the 30-man squad indicates a level of uncertainty, as well as a concern about Ashley Cole maintaining his fitness. There is a sense among the England management that Baines may lack the requisite aggression and be "too shy" for the job in hand
Capello is focusing on finalising his defensive options and the FA is confident that he has no intention of responding to Internazionale's overtures to him should, as expected, Jose Mourinho depart for Real Madrid. Reports in the Italian press suggested the Milan side are willing to offer the England manager £9m-per-year.
There are further suggestions that Inter's proprietor, Massimo Moratti, may be using Capello as a diversion to get the manager he really wants, and the FA is certainly happy that the manager's priority remains with assessing the figures on the margins of his squad – the reason he wanted to see Baines in action against Mexico.
Cole will start in Graz 72 hours from now and will play at least 45 minutes, but it is understood that Warnock will get his opportunity. Capello is also monitoring the progress of the two players in training, the England squad having arrived back in a sunny Graz at around 4pm yesterday. The Italian also seems to be preparing to use the Japan fixture for a degree of experimentation as he tries to solve problems.
Capello seems likely to persist with a 4-4-2 formation in Graz, which may well give Emile Heskey the opportunity to press his case over Peter Crouch, who took his chance on Monday. Only when the 30-man squad is reduced to 23 on Tuesday, will the squad shape be altered in training. It remains unclear who will start in goal against Japan, with Capello very impressed by the way Robert Green and Joe Hart took their opportunities.
Darren Bent's already slim prospects of making the cut have been further hit by hamstring trouble while in Austria. He may be fit by the weekend, though that leaves him very little opportunity to stake his claim to a final squad place.