England take on Egypt next Wednesday in their first game of 2010 and what will be their final fixture before the announcement of their preliminary World Cup squad in May.
Egypt, fresh from retaining their African Cup of Nations title for the third consecutive time in Angola in January, will travel to Wembley in high spirits having recently moved into 10th place in FIFA’s World Rankings , their highest ever ranking and only one place behind England in ninth.
Fabio Capello was missing up to eight of his first-choice XI in England’s previous game, a 1-0 loss to Brazil in Doha but looks likely to be able to recall most of those who missed out last November, although his defence may have a rather unfamiliar look about it with most of the injuries congregated in this area.
New captain Rio Ferdinand will be unable to lead the side out, having already been ruled out of this weekend’s Carling Cup Final. The reoccurrence of his back injury is expected to sideline the centre-back for at least another week or so.
Ashley Cole’s injury and Wayne Bridge’s decision to make himself unavailable for the national side means that both Stephen Warnock and the uncapped Leighton Baines are likely to be named in the squad.
Glen Johnson is set to return this week for Liverpool but the Egypt game will probably come too soon for him, although Capello may still choose to call him up.
Wes Brown will most likely play again at right-back, despite playing primarily in the centre for Manchester United of late.
Capello’s other options at right-back are thin on the ground in the absence of Johnson, with Gary Neville unlikely to get the call and Micah Richards already named in the Under-21 squad, although The Guardian have recently been championing the cause of Phil Neville.
Terry and Upson will renew their partnership at the heart of the defence in Ferdinand’s absence. Capello usually goes with four centre-backs in his squad, one of which will be Joleon Lescott, but the final place is up for grabs.
Bolton’s Gary Cahill has been a regular squad member of late but was recently ruled out until the end of the season with a blood clot in his arm.
Phil Jagielka is highly rated by Capello but has only just returned for Everton after 10 months out with a cruciate ligament injury so Wednesday’s game probably comes too early for him.
Ledley King is still suffering from his continued knee complaints so is unlikely to be called upon which may open the door for his Tottenham teammate Michael Dawson.
Dawson’s competition for a place in the squad comes in the form of Stoke’s Ryan Shawcross and Birmingham’s Roger Johnson, both of whom have received rave reviews for their performances this season.
Both players are looking for their first ever call-up at full international level. Dawson is also uncapped but has been in several previous squads, but never under Capello.
The England manager is widely expected to call-up Johnson’s Birmingham teammate Joe Hart who has been in impressive form all season for the Blues.
Hart should be named as one of three goalkeepers in the squad alongside David James and Rob Green, although Paul Robinson is pushing for a recall.
Ben Foster played in England’s defeat to Brazil but has only played once for Manchester United since, returning to the starting line-up for their recent midweek victory over West Ham.
Capello’s midfield selection is only hampered by the continued absence of Aaron Lennon who suffered another set back with his groin injury in training earlier this week.
This looks set to open the door for Theo Walcott to return to the squad. The Arsenal winger only managed two appearances for the Three Lions in 2009 and has endured another injury plagued season which has seen him yet to complete a full game in the Premier League this season.
Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and David Beckham will all return to the squad after missing the Brazil game whilst Gareth Barry, Michael Carrick, James Milner and Shaun Wright-Phillips should all retain their places.
Ashley Young, Jermaine Jenas and Tom Huddlestone are expected to drop out of the squad whereas Stewart Downing and Joe Cole are pushing hard for recalls after returning from respective long-term injuries.
Capello has no injury concerns going into the weekend and can look to call upon Wayne Rooney, Jermain Defoe and Emile Heskey with Carlton Cole, Peter Crouch, and Darren Bent battling for the remaining positions in the Italian’s selection.