Manchester United and Chelsea players put their cases to Fabio Capello

07 November 2009 09:24
Everywhere on the pitch, England's finest will be engaged in direct duels, their performances scrutinised through the lenses of that distinctive pair of designer Italian glasses in the directors' box. With the friendly against Brazil coming up on Saturday, there will be an edge to the 50-50s between Frank Lampard and Michael Carrick, Joe Cole and Wes Brown, Ashley Cole and Michael Owen, John Terry and Wayne Rooney.

Since taking charge, Capello has called up 13 players from both clubs and, as our graphic shows, he could conceivably put together a strong XI made exclusively of players from Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford. After this, England will play only three more friendlies before the finals in South Africa, so there will be plenty of food for thought this afternoon.

 Related Articles'United tie just another game'Fabio Capello plans new role for Joe ColeRedknapp backs Steve Bruce as future England managerPeter Crouch determined to make 2010City: Robinho not fit for BrazilSport on televisionIt will be intriguing to see whether Carlo Ancelotti starts with Joe Cole. In the three games Cole has started since completing rehabilitation from his knee injury, Chelsea have scored 11 goals and looked the flamboyant side Roman Abramovich has always craved. Capello has been impressed with the way Cole has performed at the tip of the diamond and he will be eager to see him working in that role against United.

Sir Alex Ferguson is another admirer and may well detail Darren Fletcher to track the Chelsea playmaker. 'Joe Cole is a very mobile player for that diamond,' he said. 'He's a brave lad. They've tried different permutations there without success and maybe they are looking for this from him now.'

Capello wants to be won over by Cole — he does not have another English player of the same type, what the Italians call a fantasista — but is still unconvinced by Michael Owen. Despite starting and scoring against CSKA Moscow in the week, Owen will get no further than the provisional squad — Capello is only going to take four strikers to the World Cup and, barring an injury crisis, Owen will not be among them. Likewise, Ferguson is not ready to start with the striker in the big Premier League games. Once again, he will have to play the pinch-hitting substitute.

The likes of Wes Brown and Michael Carrick will be hoping for starts to improve their cases for inclusion next summer. The former is trying to put a season of injury troubles behind him while the latter must win his way back into Ferguson's affection after his insipid performance in the Champions League final in Rome. Get back to playing for United in these big games, and Capello will promote him with the national side.

It is a player who won't be involved this afternoon — Rio Ferdinand — who might be subject of the most intense selection debate in seven months' time.

His persistent injuries, related to a recurring back problem, are becoming a serious selection issue for club and country. Jonny Evans will deputise this afternoon for Man United, reforming the partnership with Nemanja Vidic that was so effective last winter, although facing Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka in such fine form will be a cause for anxiety in a rearguard that has looked uncharacteristically vulnerable of late.

The only United defender to have maintained his standards this season is Patrice Evra. The Frenchman returns to the stadium where, in his last two visits, he has had a post-match fight with a groundsman and an on-pitch ruck with Michael Ballack.

'The fans of Chelsea love me so much,' he said. 'They boo me. I never lose against them. It motivates me maybe if they boo you, they are scared of you.

''Chelsea are a powerful team and strong and you have to be strong in every challenge. I am a competitive player and I like it when the atmosphere is very strong. It is motivation and it gives me a lot of adrenalin.'

That high level of intensity into the tackle will be relished by players and fans alike. The one man who will not be able to help wincing at every hard tackle is Capello.

Having used previous friendlies as a crash course in the various styles of the European football elite, he wants his best players to taste what it is like to play against Brazil's trap-and-pounce counter-attack, the fluid football epitomised by the quicksilver Kaka.

'To watch this game is really important, to see the kind of form the players are in,' he said. 'But what is most important is that at the end of the game all the players will be fit.'

Next battle is in the transfer market

Chelsea and United will continue their contest in the transfer market in January. Telegraph Sport understands that both clubs have sent scouts to watch Benfica's £25million-rated Angel di Maria.

Manchester City are also monitoring the 20 year-old Argentina winger.

Chelsea famously beat United to the signing of Arjen Robben and then won the dispute over John Obi Mikel — albeit at a cost of £14 million — but have reined in spending recently.

Chelsea have had their ban on signing players suspended until their appeal is heard over their signing of Gaël Kakuta. That means they face the prospect of doing all their recruiting for the next three transfer windows in January.

Source: Telegraph