As a fascinating Premier League season draws to a close, the English media is starting to focus more on the 2010 FIFA World Cup. And there has been plenty of news.
On the injury front, things seem to be looking up.
Despite David Beckham's badly-timed injury seeming to have brought to an end his prestigious but ultimately unfulfilled England career, there is better news in the offing.
The injury that Wayne Rooney sustained two weeks ago was not particularly serious. In fact, a few days later, Sir Alex Ferguson named him in the starting lineup at Old Trafford for his team's crucial second-leg quarterfinal tie against Bayern Munich.
In what has been a devastating week for "English" clubs in the Champions League—Arsenal, Chelsea, and Manchester United have all exited the competition—there is much to celebrate and look forward to.
For Capello, while it is disappointing that his players will not be matching up against the continent's best in such a prestigious tournament, the lack of Champions League action will give key players such as Rooney, Walcott, and Lampard some much-needed rest before this summer.
Two other important players who will provide Capello with pace, Aaron Lennon and Ashley Cole, are nearing a return from injury.
Striking It Hot
In the UEFA Cup, Bobby Zamora continues to impress—his first-minute goal was enough to ensure Fulham's remarkable progression. He now has eight goals in the league, 17 in all competitions.
But Zamora is just one of many forwards who lead the way in the Premier League in terms of goal output and performance.
Aside from Wayne Rooney's stellar campaign, three others of the league's top-scoring players are also English: Frank Lampard, Jermain Defoe, and Darren Bent.
While it seemed initially that Capello may pick one of the latter two to travel with to the tournament, it would be foolish of the Italians not to consider both. If he does decide to leave out one, it should be Defoe, who has struggled a bit in recent weeks.
However, Darren Bent is a man with a mission.
Against his old team, Tottenham, last weekend he scored two goals, missed two penalties and ran the Champions League challengers ragged. His 22 goals account for more than half of his team's tally, and he has almost single-handedly kept the Black Cats afloat. A phenomenal achievement which has made his once-baulked at price tag seem like a good deal.
The Daliy Mirror ran a short article this morning claiming that Capello is considering selecting Tottenham crock Ledley King, despite his lack of action this season.
Although few would doubt his ability to perform at the very highest level, it would be a bold move by the England manager. King is unlikely to start in central defense but, with the right preparation and rest, could be a match-winner as cover for Rio Ferdinand and John Terry.
Ashley Cole's speedy recovery will mean that Leighton Baines and Stephen Warnock will go head-to-head in the race for the second left-back slot. The former is the favorite, having sufficiently impressed during his run-out against Egypt last month.
In between the sticks, things are even less clear.
Joe Hart has been excellent all season, and his inclusion would be just reward for his contribution to Birmingham City's defensive excellence. Robert Green will need to be at his best as he helps West Ham stave off the real threat of relegation. Paul Robinson is an outside bet, but has also impressed in goal for Blackburn Rovers.
David James will return to the Portsmouth first-team this afternoon for their semifinal match against Tottenham, and his fitness will be scrutinized by Capello and the media. At the other end of the Wembley turf, Michael Dawson, if fit, will have an excellent opportunity to stake his claim. He has marshalled the Tottenham Hotspur defense with courage and tenacity this season.
Taking Center Stage
The midfield is perhaps an area where England possesses the most quality.
Despite Beckham's injury, Capello has enviable options at his disposal.
In the middle, Frank Lampard has helped propel Chelsea to the top of the league with his goals.
He should be joined by Gareth Barry, who has provided a calming influence to Manchester City,a team which looks to be a lock for fourth place.
Steven Gerrard has suffered a dip in form this season, perhaps due to injury niggles and to the ownership circus which currently envelops Anfield. Nevertheless, he should start from the left flank.
Despite his team's typical end of season failings, James Milner has covered himself on glory this season. It appears he has become Capello's favorite player. Due to injuries to Lennon and Beckham, he must be the favorite to start on the right side of midfield.
The likes of Aaron Lennon, Joe Cole, Ashley Young, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Scott Parker, Michael Carrick and Stewart Downing will compete for the last place.
Goalkeepers: Rob Green, Joe Hart, David James
Defenders: Glen Johnson, Wes Brown, Ashley Cole, Leighton Baines, John Terry, Rio Fedinand, Matthew Upson, Michael Dawson
Midfielders: James Milner, Joe Cole, Aaron Lennon, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry, Michael Carrick
Forwards: Wayne Rooney, Peter Crouch, Theo Walcott, Jermain Defoe, Emile Heskey
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