Fabio Capello will be at Loftus Road on Sunday to watch Shaun Wright-Phillips, who is on the brink of an England recall, against Aston Villa, but the Italian has no plans to call Wright-Phillips' Queen's Park Rangers' team-mate Joey Barton into the squad to face Montenegro next month.
Capello is also considering a first senior England call-up for Chelsea's striker Daniel Sturridge, providing the 22-year-old recovers in time from a knee injury picked up during Wednesday's Carling Cup tie against Fulham. The player was substituted after 44 minutes following a blow to his knee but is expected to be back for next Wednesday's game against Valencia at the latest.
The Capello camp are weighing up their options for the last Euro 2012 qualifier against Montenegro on 7 October with a number of key midfielders still absent through injury. Jack Wilshere has no chance of being fit for the squad announcement a week on Sunday, and Steven Gerrard is not expected to have played enough for Liverpool, despite a comeback on Wednesday night after a six-month absence.
Nevertheless, Capello's staff do not envisage a call-up for Barton who won his only England cap as a substitute against Spain in February 2007. While Capello has always maintained to his advisers that he is open-minded about the merits of any player, they feel that introducing Barton to the squad for such an important game would be a mistake. On top of that, their scouting reports of him have not provided a compelling case that he is playing well enough.
Wright-Phillips is a different case. The QPR winger has impressed with his two performances for the club against Newcastle and Wolves. He last played for England as a substitute in the home fixture against Montenegro in October last year but has not been named in a squad since that match. Since his last squad early this month, Capello has also lost Manchester United's Tom Cleverley to injury, depleting his pool of available midfielders.
The re-emergence of Wright-Phillips as a contender for a place in the squad to face Montenegro is one of the few bright spots, with so many of those Capello had hoped to be fit or in form, like Gerrard and Wilshere, struggling. He is hopeful that Sturridge will be back in time after coming off on Wednesday at Stamford Bridge.
Sturridge has been close to the senior squad before but having established himself in the Chelsea first XI he should be in the squad for Montenegro as long as his form is not interrupted by injury. Manager Andre Villas-Boas said on Wednesday that Sturridge's injury was not serious and that he could be back for tomorrow's game against Swansea City or Valencia on Wednesday.
There is no chance that Capello will pick Owen Hargreaves in the squad next month, in spite of his goal on his Manchester City debut on Wednesday. The Italian is adamant that players have to be performing regularly for their clubs in order to be considered, although the door will be left open for the November friendly which will only be played if England have qualified for Euro 2012 by then.
The same goes for Michael Owen whose two goals for Manchester United in the Carling Cup on Tuesday have not changed the Capello camp's view that he needs to play much more regularly to warrant selection. Bemused by the enthusiasm in some quarters for a recall for Owen, who seems much more realistic about his England prospects, they have no plans to bring him in soon.
The same goes for Joe Cole at the moment. While none of Capello's staff have watched the 29-year-old in action for his new club Lille, for whom Cole has played four games so far, they have a contact in place to keep an eye on the player. The verdict so far is that Cole may find it hard to establish himself when Eden Hazard effectively plays in his position and that so far nothing the Englishman has done merits a first call-up since the World Cup last year.
Capello's general manager, Franco Baldini, will be at the Etihad Stadium tomorrow for City's game against Everton and then Anfield for Liverpool v Wolves. As usual, they are braced for a few more injuries between now and the squad announcement a week on Sunday. Should England be successful against Montenegro, where a draw will be enough to win the group, then preparations will begin in earnest for Euro 2012 next summer.
While Capello and his assistants are taking nothing for granted, England may still qualify for Euro 2012 automatically even if they lose in Podgorica next month. Of the nine countries that finish in second place next month, the one with most points – factoring in that those in bigger groups will have their totals reduced – will qualify without having to go through the play-offs. Currently only Sweden could finish above England in that regard, but they would have to win both their remaining games.
* The England women's side thrashed Slovenia 4-0 at Swindon's County Ground last night in a 2013 European Championship qualifier.Reuse content