ENGLAND head coach Fabio Capello is facing a defensive crisis ahead of tomorrow’s clash with Montenegro after John Terry withdrew from the squad last night.
Terry pulled out citing a back injury, leaving Capello to weigh up who will play alongside Rio Ferdinand in the centre of defence.
Manchester City’s Joleon Lescott and Bolton’s Gary Cahill are the only available candidates, and have just 11 caps of international experience between them.
Lescott is the most likely to get the nod, having been in Capello’s original squad; Cahill was only drafted in after injury ruled out Everton’s Phil Jagielka.
But he is far from a seasoned regular for the national team, and is not even first-choice at centre-back for his club at present.
Ferdinand, meanwhile, has not worn an England shirt since the World Cup warm-up match against Japan in May, and has endured his own fitness struggles in the past two years.
It all amounts to a far from ideal scenario for Capello, as he seeks to make it three wins from three Euro 2012 qualifiers.
The Italian has also been deprived by injury of influential figures in midfield and attack. Tottenham pair Jermain Defoe and Aaron Lennon, Arsenal’s Theo Walcott and Chelsea’s Frank Lampard are all absent.
Striker Wayne Rooney has also been well short of his best for Manchester United, for whom he has scored just once this season.
In this context Capello is likely to have to pick a fairly experimental line-up at Wembley, with Aston Villa’s Ashley Young eager to stake his claim.
He said: “I’ve got a certain amount of caps but I’d like to add to them. I’ve been in most of the squads and hopefully now I’m doing everything I can to get into the team.”