Leighton Baines, Everton’s wingback is the favourite ahead of Stephen Warnock of Aston Villa in the Egypt friendly to earn his first full England start when Fabio Capello announces his XI. Both are impressive contenders but Baines has been taking to the training ground with Capello in what should be considered the starting line up.
The attack minded left back is most likely to be second in the depth chart in the wake of Ashley Cole’s injury absence and Wayne Bridge’s retirement. Most importantly, he will have to show Capello that he can take care in the defensive end of the business. No one doubts Baines speed, quality of crosses, and set pieces.
He has to show he can take care at the defensive end. Capello’s Glen Johnson experiment has made him decidedly wary of full backs who tout impeccable attacking instincts at the expense of more sketchy defensive qualities.
My personal feeling is that Capello would vastly prefer Wayne Bridge with his international experience and his less venturesome character for his final 23 for the World Cup. He still holds out hope that Bridge reconsiders his retirement for those good reasons.
There is a good chance that a behind the scenes diplomatic operation will be launched to repair the relationship with John Terry. Many prominent players have urged Bridge to eschew personal feelings over the call of international duty.
Baines can help settle the vexed left back position with an impressive display against Egypt and render this conjecture moot. He has to contend with the talented Mohamed Zidan and an midfield anchored by Ahmed Fathi. Egypt is riding into Wembley on the back of their impressive Africa Cup win so confidence is not an issue. Ronnie Shehata also has the luxury of a deep bench to turn to, including Amr Zaki and Gedo, the Africa Cup top scorer in case breeching England’s defense proves difficult. This is no friendly as 80 million Egyptians following this match will attest.