It would be nice for England to start with Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck for their must-win World Cup qualifying matches against Montenegro and Poland.
But I just can’t see Roy Hodgson doing it, with James Milner likely to be involved at the expense of one of Sturridge or Welbeck – Rooney is guaranteed to start unless he breaks down injured. Rooney got some unfair criticism for pulling out last time but he had no choice with that injury. He’s one of the few players you feel would walk on broken glass to play for England.
It’s a shame for Rickie Lambert, who in theory has done enough to justify his inclusion from the start, but realistically he is fourth choice, ahead of Jermain Defoe, because he gives that option of a target man.
England should play to their strengths though, and with goals vital they should look to the more mobile Sturridge and Welbeck, with the Liverpool striker in the form of his life and the latter a better England player than he is for United. Normally you’d expect one or both of Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to occupy the wide attacking roles as they tend to operate their for their clubs, but both are injured and that leaves the more conventional strikers who can play there.
You always have this problem with Hodgson, if you can call it a problem – organisation comes first, and with that in mind Milner is hugely important to him. You’d like him to gamble though, particularly given the circumstances: England need to win both matches to guarantee automatic qualification for the World Cup, with four points enough to reach the play-offs but by no means guaranteed for first place.
If England don’t get four points, you’d expect Montenegro to do so and Ukraine to win both their matches. And that would see England fail to qualify.
A World Cup in Brazil is almost as tantalising a prospect for England’s players as a home tournament. It’s one of the homes of football, the atmosphere will be incredible and the level of overall support second to none. No one wants to miss out on such an experience.
With that in mind you can understand why Roy would take a safer option: I can see him using Milner in the first match against Montenegro, and if England don’t win he may go for the three up front.
I expect England’s players to have the prospect of Brazil at the front of their minds, and to use that to focus on the task at hand. If they do a professional job they should win both matches, despite their difficulties at Wembley so far.
Joe Hart is coming under pressure from Celtic's Fraser Forster
Another question that has been raised if the form of Joe Hart. I still think he’s the best England goalkeeper at the moment, despite his tendency to drop a clanger. Fraser Forster has done well and excelled on Tuesday, but he is unproven at international level.
There are two clear arguments. One is that Forster has done so well in big Champions League matches and should be given his opportunity; the other is that Hart has the England experience and record to warrant selection.
Given the importance of these matches, I agree with Roy's decision to stick with Hart. I believe Forster’s challenge is getting stronger and that he will get his chance soon, but it should come in a friendly or a qualifying match with less on the line. Remember that Hart was great against Brazil and to drop him for a poor match against the best team in Europe would be a knee-jerk reaction.
David Moyes has gone in and tried to reinvent Young and Antonio Valencia, but it’s not working out for either. Young was dreadful the last time he played for England and has been little better for United. He’s in a bad place and can’t find form, so his absence is entirely unsurprising.
Henderson is a different situation. He has done nothing wrong, and is in decent form for Liverpool. But can he add anything to the existing batch of experienced central midfielders, who are fit?
Possibly more so than Tom Cleverley, but certainly not Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Jack Wilshere – who will probably all start – or Michael Carrick, who could come in for Wilshere. And with Ross Barkley a far more progressive option from the bench, I think England have their potential game-changer if they get in a bit of trouble. Certainly he has more magic than Henderson.
My native Denmark also announced their squad today – and the mighty Nicklas Bendtner is back! Shockwaves through football! You could say it’s only because we haven’t got anyone else. Aston Villa’s Nicklas Helenius is still injured, and it’s a shame as we’re expecting big things of him and Andreas Cornelius at Cardiff.
Bendtner hasn’t quite lived up to his billing at club level, but as much as English – and Italian – football fans will shake their heads, he’s a big player for Denmark. Remember his Euro 2012 form – some players don’t quite do it for their clubs but have great international careers and he falls into that category.