Fabio Capello has warned England that their impressive win in Croatia last month will count for nothing if they fail to beat Kazakhstan's mystery men at Wembley tomorrow.
England go into their third FIFA World Cup™ qualifier under the Italian looking to build on the momentum generated by the stunning 4-1 victory in Zagreb. However, they will have to do without two members of the team that secured that win, captain John Terry, who was ruled out on Friday with a back injury, and his Chelsea team-mate Joe Cole.
"I was very happy with the performance against Croatia but it is only three points," Capello said. "We have to win tomorrow."
The Italian issued an appeal to the England fans who have booed their own players on their last three Wembley outings to show patience if the Kazakhs, about whom Capello admits he knows little, prove difficult to break down.
"It is very important for the group, for the spirit and the confidence in the team that we win," he said. "I think tomorrow we will play with more confidence and I hope the crowd will help us.
"I know the crowd hope we will win and play a nice game. There is a big expectation but it is normal for the England team. .
It is possible we will not score very early and we have to be patient. I remember the old Wembley atmosphere and that helped the England players a lot
"I spoke with the players. We have to play with confidence, better than the last game we played here. I said a lot of times we have a good team with very important players. It is important we won against Croatia and now we are better than when we last played at Wembley.
"We are more confident, more compact, more of a team than we were before. I'm sure we will play well against Kazakhstan."
Fellow centreback Rio Ferdinand will stand in for Terry as captain, with Joleon Lescott the favourite to partner the Manchester United man at the heart of the defence. "I know exactly who will play on Saturday. When I decide the squad I always think it is possible John Terry, Rio (Ferdinand) or another one can get injured," Capello said.
The Italian might know his team but he offered few clues as to how he would alter his line-up. He is being tipped to field an attacking line-up with Emile Heskey, Wayne Rooney and Theo Walcott up front, ahead of a narrow midfield trio of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry. Gerrard missed the trip to Croatia through injury and may well have found himself on the bench had Joe Cole been fit.
Instead, Capello will attempt to succeed where his predecessors failed by finding a midfield system that can accomodate both the Liverpool captain and Lampard, currently in the form of his life for Chelsea.
"Gerrard is a very important player for Liverpool and for us," Capello said. ". I tried something in training and I have 24 hours to decide the good position for the midfielders."
He is a fantastic player, he can score goals, make passes and assists and I am very happy he is back
Kazakhstan's squad have arrived in England in a state of flux following the dismissal of Dutch coach Arno Pijpers last month in the wake of a 3-0 away defeat in Croatia and a 3-1 loss at home to Ukraine in their opening qualifiers.
Germany's Berndt Stork, the U-21 coach brought in as interim boss of the senior team, has made sweeping changes to the squad with the result that Capello believes he will have only seen four of the starting XI that will appear at Wembley.
"It is difficult. They have a lot of young players coming from the U-21s and I have not even seen one video of these players."