Fabio Capello has warned England's Chelsea stars that they cannot afford to allow the turmoil at Stamford Bridge to distract them from Wednesday night's clash with UEFA EURO 2008 champions Spain. John Terry, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole were all with the England squad on Monday when Chelsea's decision to sack manager Luiz Felipe Scolari was announced.
The move has been swiftly followed by efforts to secure Guus Hiddink as Scolari's successor, leaving the Chelsea trio with a lot more on their minds than the friendly in Sevilla's Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium. Terry revealed that Capello had spoken to his players about the importance of maintaining their focus on a match he regards a crucial gauge of how far the squad has come under his leadership, as well as preparation for 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifiers against Slovakia and Ukraine on 28 March and 1 April.
"The manager has stressed already that he wants everyone focused," Terry said on Tuesday. "What is happening back home is at the back of your mind but we come here focused on the England game ahead. If anything, it is a bit of a relief to get away for a couple of days because my main concern should now be England. I want to put in a good performance personally and hopefully the squad can do the same."
Capello added: "I spoke to John Terry about the situation but I am sure he will be okay tomorrow. The national team shirt is very important for him and being the skipper is very important to him."
England have been outplayed by Spain on their last two meetings - in Madrid in November 2004 and in Manchester in February 2007 - with both encounters ending in 1-0 wins for the Spaniards. Terry admitted that the ability of Spain teams to retain the ball for long periods posed a particular challenge for English players groomed on the helter-skelter style of many Premier League matches.
"They really frustrated us the last time we played them and I think that is at the back of our minds," Terry said. "We have to really press them tomorrow and not let them settle. We have had five or six matches but we have still not fully made up for not getting to the EUROs. But we are going in the right direction, we are getting results and being solid, dogged if you like. It is a nice place to be but there is no doubt tomorrow will be a bit test."
Capello said the clash with Spain would provide a very different test to the one provided by Germany, who were beaten 2-1 by what was effectively a second-string England side in Berlin in November.
"The players are different technically, physically and mentally to Germany's," Capello said. "For me tomorrow will be a very important test because it is not easy for any team to play against Spain. They play with one forward and a lot of players in midfield and they are very good technically. For this reason you have to choose your positions on the field very carefully and press their players a lot.
"We did well against Germany. Now we have to recover that spirit and it will be important to know the value of our team against a different style of play," he added.
Capello all but confirmed that David Beckham would figure at some stage in the match, which will mean he equals Bobby Moore's 108 caps, the record for an outfield player for England. "David Beckham is here because he is playing well with AC Milan," Capello said. "He is important for the group at this moment."