England v Bulgaria: Preview
Fabio Capello insists he is not nursing a sense of grievance that
Chelsea duo John Terry and Frank Lampard have both pulled out of
England's crucial Euro 2012 opener against Bulgaria.
After his turbulent experience at the World Cup, England need to make a solid start to their qualification campaign in order to relieve the pressure on Capello, who is under scrutiny like never before. Yet the Three Lions must face their immediate future without two of their most senior players.
In both instances, the players featured for their clubs on Saturday, Lampard missing a penalty and Terry completing the full 90 minutes of a home victory against Stoke. But within hours, Chelsea were confirming the pair would miss England's first competitive international, Lampard to have a groin operation and Terry because of a hamstring injury and various other aches and pains.
- Joe Strange on Arteta / Will Tidey on England v Bulgaria / Follow it LIVE from 8pm / Bulgaria guide
As both men are expected to feature for their clubs when the domestic programme resumes later this month, it hardly suggests a huge level of commitment. However, Capello insists in both instances, the course of action that has been taken makes perfect sense.
"We know Frank Lampard needs an operation to be ready for his club and the next game with us," outlined Capello. "John Terry has been playing with an injection because all the other Chelsea defenders were injured.
"He told us he had to stay at home because he cannot play all the games. "At half-time in the game against Hungary he said he couldn't carry on. He was with us then. Now he needs to relax in order to be fit for the next games."
James Milner will fill Lampard's midfield vacancy while Phil Jagielka's timely return to training this morning after he recovered from an ankle injury sustained in Everton's Premier League defeat at Aston Villa on Sunday means Capello has a ready-made replacement for Terry.
The loss of Scott Carson to a family bereavement should not cause too many headaches given Joe Hart had already been earmarked for the goalkeeping slot. Although not quite a new face given he was in South Africa, Hart is bringing some freshness to a rather familiar-looking England side.
"Joe is my number one goalkeeper," said Capello. "He is good. He has improved a lot. He played last season with Birmingham but was too young for South Africa.
"Now we have changed some things and he is doing very well."
Although they can no longer count on the services of their most talented player, Dimitar Berbatov, Bulgaria are a decent team and, in Martin Petrov, have a player of extreme pace operating on the left flank who has caused a succession of Premier League defences some problems.
Indeed, while Bulgaria have never actually beaten England in their eight meetings so far, they have managed four draws, three of which have come on English soil. A perfect time therefore, for Wayne Rooney to break his 10-game international barren streak after finally finding the net for Manchester United in front of Capello at Old Trafford on Saturday.
"I hope Wayne Rooney will score. Sometimes the bookmakers find a solution," smiled Capello when informed that Rooney was favourite to be the first to find the net.
"It was important for him to get the penalty against West Ham. It is important for every forward to score goals.
"It is a good moment for him and he will be okay for the game against Bulgaria."
Capello is too experienced to give any indication that the mounting pressure is getting to him. In all probability, he will be forced to live with doubts until, or if, England reach Euro 2012 and perform to somewhere approaching their capabilities. For the moment though, he is existing through short periods.
Next month's home encounter with Montenegro is seen as the first appropriate time for reflection. But failure to beat Bulgaria would get the nerves jangling, and the knives sharpened.
"The players have trained very well," Capello confirmed. "They were compact with a good spirit.
"We have to play well and we have to win.
"I am always enthusiastic about my job. When you win you are the best. When you lose, you are the worst. You have to live with both moments."
Related England News