Friday, March 21, 2008


Capello said the fact England under-21s have a friendly rather than competitive game next week allowed him to pick Walcott, 19, and Wheater, 21.

He added: "Theo Walcott and David Wheater are two good young players who have done very well for the Under-21s this season and when I have seen them play for their clubs.

"Stuart Pearce has given me excellent recommendations on both players. Next week Stuart has a friendly match so it is a good opportunity for us to consider some of the younger players for the senior squad."

Capello also made special mention of Michael Owen and Joe Cole in matches he was watched this week.

"I saw Michael Owen play for Newcastle on Monday at Birmingham," said the Italian. "I felt he looked sharp, very alive and it was good to see him scoring.

"I should also mention Joe Cole who I thought was excellent last night for Chelsea in a very exciting game. He had a massive impact."

Portsmouth striker Jermain Defoe has also been included while Chelsea pair John Terry and Frank Lampard, who missed Capello's first game in charge due to injury, are also in.

Those named in Capello's first 30-man squad in January who miss out this time are Micah Richards and Curtis Davies, both injured, as well as Ledley King, Nicky Shorey, Michael Carrick and Emile Heskey.

Capello has not named his captain against France - he has said he wants to try different plays for deciding on a permanent choice. Steven Gerrard had the armband against Switzerland last month and Terry or Rio Ferdinand are the favourites for this game.

Most of the focus will be on Beckham though and the 32-year-old has convinced Capello that he is fit enough after several pre-season games with Los Angeles Galaxy.

It also seems very unlikely that Capello will not keep him in his thinned-down 23-man squad that he will confirm on Saturday evening.

Walcott's inclusion was also anticipated as the 19-year-old's recent performances for Arsenal, including a notable cameo against AC Milan, were known to have caught Capello's eye.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

All eyes on Schuster and Rijkaard

here is unrest at the top of La Liga with the Spanish media speculating that neither Barcelona nor Real Madrid have faith in their current coaches.

Barcelona suffered a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Villarreal on Sunday to increase the gulf in points between them and La Liga leaders Real to eight, and reignite talk in the press of this being coach Frank Rijkaard's last season in charge.

Real Madrid ground out a 2-1 win over Espanyol on Saturday, but a far from perfect display in the Bernabeu means questions are still being asked of Bernd Schuster's ability to coach the nine-time European champions.

And with Jose Mourinho waiting in the wings after his admission that he aims to coach in either Spain or Italy next season, the Spanish media is convinced that one of the league's big two will axe their manager in favour of the self-proclaimed "special-one".

Reports in Spain last week suggested Madrid would be the most likely destination for the Portuguese manager, but Barca's defeat on Sunday has thrown the debate wide open.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta was far from happy with his side's defeat on Sunday and could not hide his disappointment in his post-game comments.

"What happened is a hammer blow for us," he said.

"We keep on passing up chances to catch the leaders and the league is getting away from us. The fact of the matter is for two weeks we haven't been at the level we should have been at, which has meant Real Madrid have pulled away again."

These comments led Madrid-based daily Marca to announce that only the capture of La Liga title will save Rijkaard's job.