The England squad for theÂ friendly at theÂ weekend against Slovenia and the penultimate home qualifier versus CroatiaÂ was announced on Sunday night.Â The starting eleven will probably look similar to the one that drew with Holland at the start of AugustÂ with WesÂ Brown replacing the injured Rio Ferdinand (thigh strain).Â Aaron Lennon and Peter Crouch (now both of Spurs after the latter moved from Portsmouth) were the only notable additions while neither Theo Walcott and – perhaps less surprisingly -Â Michael Owen were called up. Walcott’s absence means that Arsenal do not have a single player in the current England squad: Joleon Lescott’s rather acrimonious transfer from Everton to Manchester City means that City now have four players involved for the forthcoming games.
Apart from Rio there are no significant injury worries: the same can’t be said for the Croats, whoÂ lost Spurs’ Luka Modric for at least six weeks when he broke his leg at the weekend. It’s hard not to have mixed feeling about this: on the one hand Modric’s absense might make our task easier but on the other hisÂ undoubted abilityÂ might have made the game more exciting and unpredictable.
The currentÂ lead in Group 6 might well be cut to four points on Saturday as Croatia have a qualifier on Saturday against Belarus in Zagreb (7:30 GMT, apparently no plans to show it on TV); earlier that afternoon Andorra travel to Ukraine. More to come about those games and the rest weekend’s qualifiers later this week.
In terms of the squad’s performance in Premiership form so far, the situation is very encouraging. Fourteen of the 24 players called up by Fabio CappelloÂ come from the current top four clubs at the time of writing and there have been 18 goals throughout the squad, with Jermain Defoe and Wayne Rooney having scoredÂ four each. Surprisingly, defenders currently lead the midfielders by four goals to three, largely due to Glen Johnson’s pair of goals for Liverpool.
11 of the 14 Premiership assists from the England squad have come from the midfield with Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Aaron Lennon contributing two each.
Discipline has been reasonably good so far, although both Wayne Rooney
and Ashley Young have both picked up two yellow cards in the Prem this season. However, top of the naughty list is aÂ Mr David Robert Joseph
Beckham of LA Galaxy, who received a straight red cardÂ v Seattle on 16th August but scored the winner against Chivas at the weekend: coming so soon after the well reported incidents with the Galaxy fans, this might be a situation that needs to be monitored.
Goalkeepers: Foster (Manchester United), Green (West Ham), Robinson (Blackburn)
Defenders: Johnson (Liverpool), Brown (Manchester United), Upson (West Ham), Terry (Chelsea, capt), Lescott (Manchester City), A Cole (Chelsea), Bridge (Manchester City)
Midfielders: Wright-Phillips (Manchester City), Lennon (Spurs), Beckham (Los Angeles Galaxy), Barry (Manchester City), Lampard (Chelsea), Carrick (Manchester United), Gerrard (Liverpool), A Young (Aston Villa), Milner (Aston Villa)
Strikers:Rooney (Manchester United), Heskey (Aston Villa), Defoe (Spurs), C Cole (West Ham), Crouch (Spurs).