England interrupted their 2010 FIFA World Cup™ altitude training camp in Austria on Sunday to make a flying visit to London for Monday's friendly against Mexico with five key members of Fabio Capello's squad staying put in Irdning.
The four Chelsea players, including Joe Cole, and Portsmouth goalkeeper David James, are being given extra time to recover after playing in last weekend's FA Cup final. "The Chelsea players and David James will not play against Mexico," confirmed Capello. "I needed them to train and stay with us. I also needed to check their physical situation so these five players won't play."
As Cole's team-mates John Terry, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole are - fitness permitting - automatic members of Capello's first-choice starting line-up, there is bound to be an element of experimentation about Capello's team. Mexico are also World Cup-bound, and Monday's warm-up provides Capello with an opportunity to tinker with both formation and personnel.
Johnson and Michael Dawson will both hope that involves debuts for them, while Jamie Carragher and Ledley King will probably be asked to make their first England appearances since Capello replaced Steve McClaren in December 2007. It is suggested that Carragher is earmarked for the right-back berth Liverpool team-mate Glen Johnson had been expected to fill, while King, whose chronic knee problems have not prevented him training at England's mountain retreat, may be deployed in a holding role to anchor a five-man midfield.
Another strategy currently taking shape in Capello's mind involves the use of Wayne Rooney as a lone striker, just as he was used at Manchester United for the bulk of last season. "I will experiment against Mexico," he said. "It is important to see how some of these perform on the pitch."
Uncertainty remains over the fitness of Gareth Barry, whose scan on Monday will determine whether Capello takes a chance on the Manchester City midfielder. "In my mind I more or less know the names of the 23 players who will be with me in South Africa," he said. "But we have to wait because you never know whether someone gets injured."
Having used the facilities in Irdning before when he was coach of both AC Milan and Real Madrid, Capello knew exactly what he was getting when he booked the trip. The clear air and cooler temperatures are far more like the ones England will find in South Africa than the balmy conditions they left behind at home. England's opening Group C game at the World Cup is against the United States in Rustenburg on 12 June.