Capello's checklist: what Fabio will focus on tonight
With the likes of Ferdinand and Lennon out, the Egypt friendly is a great chance for others to make a case for World Cup inclusion
Wednesday 03 March 2010
1. So is Theo Walcott the answer to England's right-wing problem?
With David Beckham limited to cameo substitute appearances on the national stage, the door is wide open for Walcott, especially with Aaron Lennon again missing out, this time with a groin injury, and likely to be in a race to return in time for the World Cup squad announcement. Walcott has struggled to follow up his hat-trick in Croatia in September 2008, with just four appearances for England since that night in Zagreb, but recent displays for Arsenal suggest he has finally put his injury troubles behind him. A positive display against ageing defender Wael Gomaa tonight could propel the 20-year-old back into the forefront of Capello's right-wing thinking.
2. Who will provide back-up to Ashley Cole at left-back?
With Wayne Bridge opting against resuming relations with John Terry, the second left-back spot on the plane to South Africa is up for grabs. Everton's Leighton Baines has been enjoying a fine season at Goodison Park and will look to translate that form into the international arena tonight, with Aston Villa duo James Milner and Stephen Warnock waiting in the wings should Baines fail to impress.
3. Who should partner Wayne Rooney up front?
The Manchester United man made sure of his place long ago but who will line up alongside him? As in previous matches, Capello looks likely to opt for the bulk and strength of Emile Heskey tonight, but Carlton Cole could come on should Heskey's lack of goals persuade Capello to look elsewhere. The West Ham man offers more of a goal threat, having scored nine times for his club this season, but with just 119 international minutes under his belt he could prove a little inexperienced. Cole operates in a similar way to Heskey, holding the ball up and doing the donkey work for the more predatory Rooney. Jermain Defoe impressed, mainly in a substitute's role, for Capello last summer and has continued his form throughout the season, while Peter Crouch, a longtime favourite of previous managers Sven Goran Eriksson and Steve McClaren, needs a big display to strengthen his claims for a squad place. Darren Bent and Gabriel Agbonlahor have both been among the goals.
4. Who'll play centre-half with Terry?
Despite off-field distractions and poor recent displays on the field, the deposed captain John Terry remains the first-choice centre-back. Rio Ferdinand's back trouble opens the door for others, with West Ham's Matthew Upson in the box seat after starting nine games under Capello. A steady performance tonight will aid his chances ahead of Wes Brown and Joleon Lescott, both of whom have struggled to impress for England, and the untested Ryan Shawcross. Michael Dawson and Gary Cahill are outside bets.
5. Who's the number-one No 1?
West Ham's Rob Green was sent off in Ukraine and struggled against the Netherlands, so he undergoes a final audition tonight. Birmingham City's fine season has pushed Joe Hart to the head of the chasing pack, with the Manchester City loanee unlucky to be overlooked for a starting place tonight. David James' place, for experience if nothing else, appears assured, despite the recent turmoil at Fratton Park, while Paul Robinson has recovered his form at Blackburn Rovers.
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