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England vs. Bulgaria: Predicted Starting XI For England

Matt SAnalyst ISeptember 1, 2010

England vs. Bulgaria: Predicted Starting XI For England

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    After a thoroughly disappointing World Cup in South Africa, England returns to competitive action on Friday night with the first of two Euro 2012 qualifiers this week.

    England has been drawn in a group with Bulgaria, Switzerland, Wales and Montenegro and face Bulgaria first up on Friday night at Wembley before traveling to face Switzerland on Tuesday.

    Fabio Capello has recalled some familiar faces amidst a minor injury crisis with Rio Ferdinand, John Terry and Frank Lampard all missing.

    The following previews who Capello may turn to in order to get off to winning start on Friday night.

Goalkeeper: Joe Hart

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    Age: 23

    Caps/Goals: 4/0

    It's been quite a few months for Joe Hart who after a successful loan spell at Birmingham last year now holds the No. 1 shirt for both club and country.

    Hart has so far justified Roberto Mancini's faith in him at Manchester City having conceded just one penalty in five appearances so far this season.

    Both Ben Foster and Scott Carson are currently nursing injuries from the weekend games but one should be fit enough to take his place on the bench for what will be Hart's first competitive game for the Three Lions.

Right-Back: Glen Johnson

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    Age: 26

    Caps/Goals: 27/1

    Glen Johnson is the only specialist right-back named in Fabio Capello's squad so the Italian will be praying that the Liverpool full-back stays fit.

    Retirements have hit the position hard in the past six months with Luke Young, Jamie Carragher (for the second time) and Wes Brown all calling time on their international careers.

    Micah Richards remains Capello's only other viable alternative but remains with the Under-21 squad awaiting his first cap under Capello which means Johnson is under little or no pressure for his place.

Left-Back: Ashley Cole

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    Age: 29

    Caps/Goals: 83/0

    With John Terry joining Rio Ferdinand on the sidelines Cole will be England's senior defender on Friday night with more caps to his name than the rest of the backline put together.

    Appearances against Bulgaria on Friday and then Switzerland on Tuesday will see Cole rise to ninth place on England's all-time appearance list, level with Gary Neville and just one cap behind equalling Kenny Sansom's record for a left-back.

Centre-Back: Michael Dawson

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    Age: 26

    Caps/Goals: 1/0

    A replacement for Rio Ferdinand in the World Cup squad, Dawson had to wait until last month for his debut against Hungary after seeing no action in South Africa.

    A solid start to the season has seen him help Spurs' wrap up their place in the Champions League group stages, although he faces an increased fight on his hands to keep his place in the team with the arrival of William Gallas.

    Dawson will probably line-up as the right-hand centre-back as Phil Jagielka is struggling with a foot injury sustained in Everton's defeat to Aston Villa at the weekend.

Centre-back: Matt Upson

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    Age: 31

    Caps/Goals: 21/2

    Upson was dropped from the squad completely for last month's friendly win over Hungary after his in the defensive shambles against Germany in South Africa, despite netting England's only goal of the 4-1 drubbing.

    He hasn't enjoyed the best start to the club season as West Ham have shipped three goals in each of their Premier League games so far but his recall has come due his experience.

    Upson has almost double the caps of other centre-back options Dawson, Jagielka, Cahill and Lescott combined and Capello will probably opt for Upson's reliability that served him well during the last qualifiers.

Centre-Back: Matt Upson

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    Age: 31

    Caps/Goals: 21/2

    Upson was dropped from the squad completely for last month's friendly win over Hungary after his in the defensive shambles against Germany in South Africa, despite netting England's only goal of the 4-1 drubbing.

    He hasn't enjoyed the best start to the club season as West Ham have shipped three goals in each of their Premier League games so far but his recall has come due his experience.

    Upson has almost double the caps of other centre-back options Dawson, Jagielka, Cahill and Lescott combined and Capello will probably opt for Upson's reliability that served him well during the last qualifiers.

Centre-Back: Matt Upson

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    Age: 31

    Caps/Goals: 21/2

    Upson was dropped from the squad completely for last month's friendly win over Hungary after his in the defensive shambles against Germany in South Africa, despite netting England's only goal of the 4-1 drubbing.

    He hasn't enjoyed the best start to the club season as West Ham have shipped three goals in each of their Premier League games so far but his recall has come due his experience.

    Upson has almost double the caps of other centre-back options Dawson, Jagielka, Cahill and Lescott combined and Capello will probably opt for Upson's reliability that served him well during the last qualifiers.

Right-Midfield: Theo Walcott

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    Age: 21

    Caps/Goals: 12/3

    Walcott has so far responded superbly to being left out of the World Cup squad last summer and has netted four goals in his last two Premier League outings.

    He showed glimpses of his best form in the first-half of England's friendly with Hungary last month and Capello is expected to turn to the Arsenal man again on the right ahead of Shaun Wright-Phillips.

    Manager and fans alike will hope that Walcott can maintain his winning run with England which has seen the Three Lions win on each of his 12 previous appearances.

Centre-Midfield: Gareth Barry

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    Age: 29

    Caps/Goals: 40/2

    In spite of all the big name arrivals at Manchester City over the summer Gareth Barry has so far retained his place in the starting XI and should continue to do so for England as one of Capello's favorites.

    Barry ended last month's friendly match with Hungary with the captain's armband amidst a youthful side but will be partnered here by Steven Gerrard, captain again in the absence of Rio Ferdinand.

Centre-Midfield: Steven Gerrard (c)

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    Age: 30

    Caps/Goals: 85/19

    Much like Liverpool, Gerrard has yet to really hit the ground running so far this season and contrary to critics' accusations in the past he has produced his best performance of the season for England when he single-handedly dragged England to victory from a losing position against Hungary.

    In Lampard's absence Gerrard will surely be restored to his favored central berth where he will line up alongside Gareth Barry, a player he made his England debut alongside under Kevin Keegan.

Left-Midfield: Adam Johnson

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    Age: 23

    Caps/Goals: 2/0

    Johnson narrowly missed the cut for the World Cup squad but Capello will be partly admitting the error of his ways if, as expected, he names Johnson in the starting XI for the second consecutive England match.

    Surprisingly overlooked for Manchester City's first game at Tottenham but Johnson has since started both Premier League games and looked to continue his sparkling form since his January transfer.

Forward: Wayne Rooney

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    Age: 24

    Caps/Goals: 65/25

    Rooney broke his six-month goal duck from the penalty spot against West Ham last weekend and England fans will be hopeful that this might kick-start the forward into action again after such a disappointing showing in South Africa this summer.

    The Manchester United forward top-scored for England during World Cup qualifying and he will be expected to do so again.

Forward: Jermain Defoe

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    Age: 27

    Caps/Goals: 43/12

    Wayne Rooney will be looking for a new partner now that Emile Heskey has retired from international football but the World Cup suggested that it was overdue in any case.

    Defoe has endured a hit-and-miss start to the season but has put off surgery to be available for these internationals. 

    His winning goal in the final World Cup group game against Slovenia should still carry enough weight to see him start ahead of fierce competition from Darren Bent.

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