England on the brink of 2010 qualification

Kieran Beckles
By Kieran Beckles    

A victory tonight would all but seal qualification for the World Cup. South Africa is on the horizon and after six successive victories, England are in the driving seat to make it to four consecutive World Cup tournaments in a row.

In the morning press conference, England manager Fabio Capello hinted that there may be changes for tonight’s game against minnows Andorra. Rio Ferdinand has been ruled out again, suffering from an injury.

Gareth Barry is suspended after picking up his third yellow card of the campaign so will also miss out, with David Beckham widely expected to replace Manchester City’s new £12 million signing. It will be Beckham’s 112th cap and his first start in a competitive game in two years.

However with Beckham, Emile Heskey and Glen Johnson all one yellow card away from suspension, Capello will be wary of losing them for the key match against Croatia at Wembley in September.

“I have thought about this problem,” said Capello. “I have to decide if some players on yellow cards will play.”

Should he decide against playing Beckham in the role made vacant by Barry, it seems he will choose to deploy Shaun Wright-Phillips. Heskey could be replaced by Peter Crouch or in-form Jermaine Defoe.

At right back, Manchester United skipper Gary Neville could come in to replace Johnson or Wright-Phillips having practised playing right-back in training.

John Terry will captain the side, with Matthew Upson expected to play alongside him in central defence. After an assured performance against Kazakhstan, Robert Green should keep his spot in goal.

Frank Lampard will occupy the midfield joined by possibly Beckham or Wright Phillips, while Theo Walcott, Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard will provide support for whoever starts up front in the lone role.

Should England win tonight, it will mark a perfect first season for wily Italian Fabio Capello, with a seventh victory that maintains England’s 100% record in qualifying. When they played Andorra in Barcelona earlier in the group stages, it proved a difficult game with England running out 2-0 winners in an unconvincing display.

Subsequently tonight Capello will be stressing the importance of an early goal to settle any nerves. Andorra look set to start with a defensive 4-5-1 formation as they attempt to contain the creative flair of Rooney, Lampard and Gerrard.

Skipper John Terry has promised English fans that do make it to Wembley, that they will be treated to an entertaining display after many fans’ travel plans are disrupted by the tube strike in London.

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