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A marriage of inconveniences for Capello

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Phil McNulty | 23:00 UK time, Friday, 11 November 2011

Fabio Capello's failure to spot the clash of fixtures between England's meeting with World Cup holders Spain and son Pierfillipo's marriage to partner Tiziana in Milan almost sums up the confused backdrop to this Wembley friendly.

Instead of joining wife Laura in Italy to prepare for the nuptials on Saturday, Capello will be assembling the pieces of a chaotic build-up into something he hopes will provide cause for optimism in England's preparations for Euro 2012.

He said at Wembley on Friday: "I will be close to my family with the mind." But part of Capello might have secretly wished to be in Italy in body as missing his son's big day threatened to become the least of his worries.

Capello has had to deal with the fall-out from allegations of racism against captain John Terry, the furore of "Poppygate" and the task of forming plans for the early stages of the competition in Poland and Ukraine without Wayne Rooney, as his finest player serves a suspension.

Whether he has negotiated this minefield with enough skill to ensure he raises a glass in celebration with Pierfillipo on Saturday night, or is instead resisting the temptation to drown his sorrows, remains to be seen.

Capello's team selection carried a random element that has become his trademark in recent times - not least his handling of Terry's presence in the squad.

Once the decision had been made to call up Terry, Capello then made it clear he would not be playing against the world champions. And yet he will return as captain against Sweden at Wembley on Tuesday, as Capello said: "I want to see something different."

There is no question as to where Capello's loyalties lie going into the game against Spain. Photo: PA

Different in this case means Phil Jagielka resuming a partnership with Joleon Lescott that was formed at Everton some years ago and is not entirely unknown to the coach as they played in the qualifying win in Switzerland last season.

Jagielka is also suffering from a fractured toe, which may raise questions in the mind of Everton manager David Moyes as to why he will face Spain, presumably in some pain, while Terry is protected until the lesser powers of Sweden arrive in London.

A date with Spain surely calls for England's strongest available side to be present and the logic behind Capello's decision was explained thus: "These are important games to see the value of the players I have needed to select. These are difficult games. Spain and Sweden have different styles, completely different styles, and then we have the Dutch to come.

"I want to understand what will happen with the players I select when we go to play the really important games at the Euros. Those matches at the Euros will be more difficult so I need to know the value of the players.

"And in these three games we will play at Wembley with the pressure. Here, the pressure is more than away from home. For this reason, you can assess the value of the players here, more than away."

Capello's other gamble is to throw Manchester United teenager Phil Jones into a midfield maelstrom that will be populated by some of the finest operators the game has seen in the person of Xavi and Andres Iniesta.

Even when Jones' calm self-confidence and undoubted potential is taken into account, this is still a dangerous assignment for an England rookie, but Capello has no fears.

"I spoke with Sir Alex Ferguson," he said. "He was in my mind when I met him in Manchester recently. He said he could play there and of course you know last year he played in midfield.

"I want to try him. This game is perfect because I want to see him as a midfielder. We haven't a lot of young players who can play as midfielders.

"He can play right-back, he can play centre-back, he can play, for me, as a midfielder because he's really a fantastic player. But I know him as a right-back, where he's really good. He played really well against Montenegro.

"I saw him twice as a central defender and I remember him as a central midfielder. I want to see him there in a really important game against Spain."

Experimentation in attack is understandable given Rooney's absence, although there was a case for Capello playing the Manchester United striker in the hope his presence might have provided the catalyst for a result that would have given England a psychological lift.

Instead, he will not figure again until the rearranged friendly with Holland as Capello works out how to fill the hole created by Rooney's red card in Montenegro.

He said: "For me, it's better to understand what will happen when you need to play without him. He will be with us against Holland. I told him he will be selected for that game but for now it's really important that we see the other players.

"This is a game to prepare for the Euros, not only to think about winning. We need to understand something more, know something more, about the players we have."

Capello has plenty to keep his mind occupied while his son has his own big match in Milan and he bristled with defiance when confronted with any hint of doubt about his selection.

"It's my job guys, it's my job," he told his inquisitors. "I have no fear. Nothing. No fear. I think the team that will play will be really, really, good."

The message was clear. No fear - but we knew that, as it takes a brave man to tell his wife he is missing their son's wedding to watch a football match.

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