Result is Far from the Agenda Against Andorra
As Fabio Capello’s first competitive test as England manager looms, the result is far from the issue at hand.
The lacklustre 2-2 draw with the Czech Republic allowed the critics to take their first credible swipe at the Italian and, whether or not they got under his skin, he will be keen to get England out of the blocks towards the 2010 World Cup with at least some of the pressure lifted.
The first tie may not be the biggest challenge by any stretch of the imagination, against Andorra, a team made up predominantly of part-timers, but the manner of the expected victory will be paramount.
England’s last visit to the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona ended in a 3-0 victory over the minnows, but were greeted by a chorus of boos by the travelling faithful as the half-time score remained tied at 0-0.
This first meeting of the new qualifiers will also allow direct comparison with Steve McClaren, whose first tie of the qualification for Euro 2008 came against the same opponents.
After an impressive performance against Everton on Saturday, Jermain Defoe looks set to start in Spain, looking to add to his brace against Andorra in the 5-0 win at Wembley in 2006.
It also seems likely his Portsmouth teammate David James will retain his place in goal, with the potential for an unchanged back four of Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Ashley Cole, and Wes Brown ahead of him, even though all were doubtful to feature.
The injuries to Steven Gerrard, Michael Carrick and Owen Hargreaves has left potential for changes in midfield, most notably the opportunity for Jimmy Bullard to gain his first England call-up.
However, he would look to be somewhat down the pecking order with veterans of the England squad Joe Cole and Frank Lampard available, as well as Gareth Barry and Jermaine Jenas in the 23-man squad.
Don’t rule out an appearance for the plucky Fulham star though, with Croatia to follow in Zagreb on Wednesday night, you can be sure that Capello will have at least an eye on that tie.
So don’t be too surprised to see a few starters get at least 45 minutes on the bench, should all be going to plan of course.
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