Fabio Capello's bad luck with injuries to his key defenders continued last night when it emerged that John Terry will miss tomorrow's Euro 2012 qualifier against Montenegro with a back injury.
Terry's biggest problems with injury have been to his back. He had an operation to remove a bulge on a disc in December 2006. The current problem is not thought to be related. He missed training yesterday and the Football Association announced last night that he was returning to Chelsea for treatment.
Terry has not played for Capello since the friendly against Hungary on 11 August. Rio Ferdinand is fit and, barring an accident, is certain to start tomorrow. But on Friday, Capello also lost Everton's Phil Jagielka with a hamstring problem just when it looked as if the player had a good case to be picked ahead of Ferdinand.
The Chelsea captain missed the previous Euro 2012 qualifiers against Bulgaria and Switzerland with a hamstring problem picked up in Chelsea's game against Stoke City on 28 August. He has since played six times for his club, having made his comeback just after the last international break.
With Terry out of the game tomorrow it means Capello will have little choice other than to go with Joleon Lescott and Ferdinand in central defence against Montenegro. That will be the fifth consecutive game that he has had to start with a different defensive pairing, demonstrating how hard it has been for the England manager to achieve any consistency in that position.
Capello had already called up Gary Cahill as cover for Jagielka, as well as Aston Villa's Stewart Downing for Aaron Lennon. With the manager's options running out, it is possible a midfield player will be pressed into defensive duties.
Darren Bent has emerged as the favourite to partner Wayne Rooney in attack at Wembley on Tuesday. Capello is also without the long-term injured Jermain Defoe and is leaning towards using the Sunderland man in that position. Bent scored his first international goal against Switzerland in Basle last month.
The England manager is not thought to have an issue with goalkeeper Joe Hart over the News of the World's reports that he was drinking in a bar in Spain last Tuesday night. The night out, captured on a camera phone – the bête noire of Premier League footballers – was during the four days the England players had off duty before the squad met on Thursday ahead of tomorrow's game.
Capello will announce today whether he intends to stay with Steven Gerrard as England captain or reinstate Ferdinand, who has not captained the team since his pre-World Cup injury.
Ferdinand is fit and is understood to have been impressive in training. The Capello camp insist that the decision was made some time ago. It will be revealed when the captain gives his traditional pre-match press conference this lunchtime after the squad train at Wembley.
The players and staff have had no clear guidance as to which way Capello intends to go on the matter. Ferdinand was given the job when Terry was sacked in February, although there was little fanfare by the time injury first allowed him to assume the role in May against Mexico. In Capello's view Ferdinand picked up the job automatically by dint of being vice-captain to Terry.
Gerrard has captained the team for the last seven games, including the two wins to start this campaign, and is the more likely of the two players to be fit and available over the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign. However, it would be a big move to sack his second captain within the space of 10 months.
Gerrard was among a group of England players including Lescott, Ashley Young and Shaun Wright-Phillips who yesterday visited the children's ward at Watford General Hospital, which is near to the team's Grove Hotel in Hertfordshire.
Gerrard said: "Football sometimes seems like the most important thing in the world, but when you see children like this in the hospital it puts everything in perspective.
"If you can make even just a small impact on someone's life, it's completely worth it. You see the kids' eyes light up when you walk in, it gives you a great feeling. It was also nice to see the nurses and hospital staff who do such an incredible job for the children."
Rio Ferdinand v Darren Bent: gaming and twitter wars
After earning a fine for his Twitter use in the past, England striker Darren Bent steered clear of the day job on his social networking page yesterday, treating his followers to updates of his online computer game with England team-mate Rio Ferdinand. Let's hope the duo put as much effort in on the pitch at Wembley tomorrow night...Darren Bent (@DB11TT):
Its finally here people DB vs RF on fifa
DB: 25 mins gone DB 2-0 RF
Rio Ferdinand (@RioFerdy5):
#fifa half time score between me and @DB11TT 2-2!!
DB: @rioferdy5 even contest at the moment half time
DB: Wooooooooooooooooooo 90th minute winner againsst @rioferdy5 3-2 boooooom
RF: A smash and grab...dominated the game....pipped in the 90th minute! Suicidal!
DB: 2nd game 1 way traffic. 1-0 victory over @rioferdy5
RF: 1 zip...defeat AGAIN!! Considering @DB11TT has played on average 8hrs a day since we been ere I done not too bad !
DB: Put it this way was the most 1 sided 1-0 ever
RF: I think wazza is the man on #fifa so far, da kid just knows how to finish...its what I'm hearing anyway! We all on the same team later!!
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