Dramas distract England ahead of Spain clash

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England are likely to field a young, experimental team against world and European champions Spain in their friendly at Wembley on Saturday with squad regulars John Terry, Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Rio Ferdinand all missing for different reasons.

The build-up to the first meeting between the teams at Wembley since England won a Euro 96 quarter-final on penalties has been overshadowed by the soap operas which now seem to be an everyday part of English football life.

A row over whether world governing body FIFA would allow England to wear a poppy on their shirts to mark the Remembrance Day observations dragged on for much of the week and involved FA President Prince William, British Prime Minister David Cameron and sports minister Hugh Robertson.

It was finally resolved on Wednesday with FIFA allowing England to wear the poppy as part of their black armbands but before that issue stole the headlines the role of skipper Terry dominated pre-match stories.

Terry has been accused of aiming a racial insult at Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand when Chelsea played QPR two weeks ago and is being investigated by the police and the FA over the incident.

Although England coach Fabio Capello named him in the squad for Saturday's match and Tuesday's friendly at Wembley against Sweden, he also confirmed Terry would not play against Spain.

To add to the situation, Terry's long-time central defensive partner Rio Ferdinand was not selected while Gerrard is out injured.

Rooney is absent after UEFA banned him for the first three matches of the European Championships next year, pending an England FA appeal, while Capello is missing his son Pierfilippo's wedding in Milan on Saturday because of a mix-up over dates.

In the circumstances, the actual kick-off might come as a welcome relief to all.

"I want to see some new players and how they fit in," Capello told reporters in the build-up to the game.

"Spain are the best team in the world right now and play a different style to every other team and I want to see how we cope against them. I need to give a run-out to new players and see their potential."

The squad includes four uncapped players: Fulham goalkeeper David Stockdale, Tottenham Hotspur defender Kyle Walker, Everton midfielder Jack Rodwell and Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge as well as four players with just seven caps between them.

Manchester United defender Phil Jones (one cap), United forward Danny Wellbeck (two), Fulham striker Bobby Zamora (one), and Aston Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor (three) will all be hoping for the chance to impress Capello over the two games with Euro 2012 just over the horizon.

MINOR TINKERING

In contrast, Spain's squad requires only minor tinkering ahead of the tournament in Poland and Ukraine next year.

Coach Vicente del Bosque has remained loyal to regulars such as Fernando Torres, even though the Chelsea striker has struggled for form over the last year. Torres needs to return the faith shown in him with some goals between now and next June.

In defence, injuries to first-choice centre-back pairing Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol mean the Barcelona duo have not played together much recently.

The left-back position is up for grabs with Malaga's Nacho Monreal and Valencia's Jordi Alba battling for that honour, while Spain's 'over-booking' in midfield poses the kind of headache most coaches can only dream of.

David Silva's form for Manchester City beckons for a place in the starting line-up, as does Cesc Fabregas's with Barcelona, but, with stalwarts Xavi and Andres Iniesta unlikely to make way, Del Bosque has many possible combinations to try out at Wembley.

"We only have three matches left before we have to name our squad for Euro 2012 and we have to make the most of them," Del Bosque said this week.

Spain's squad will not assemble in Madrid until Thursday with the Barcelona contingent playing a King's Cup last-16 first leg on Wednesday, a match pulled forward to accommodate their trip to the Club World Cup next month.