Jamie Carragher looks set to be given a well-deserved starting role for England tonight with coach Steve McLaren considering moving to a 3-5-2 formation against Croatia.
Most Reds would of course not even consider leaving Carra out of any side, but he seems to always be overlooked in favour of players who we'd say were worse, certainly no better, than Carra. Tonight though it seems as though McLaren has to change his formation because of injuries and suspensions, and that's what's given Carra the chance.
Fellow Red Steven Gerrard is one of many midfielders unavailable for tonight, having been suspended due to getting his second yellow of the qualifying phase on Saturday. Frank Lampard must be pleased that Gerrard misses out tonight; having found that most of the country have now caught up with Reds fans in the belief that Lampard is not quite as good as he would like us to think. With Gerrard available there might have been a much bigger push for him to be dropped, but there's too much of a player shortage now for that: "When you include Lennon, who is an impact player, we're missing four of our midfield players," said McLaren, "We have to deal with that and we're looking at different ways of doing so. Now we've done the work and I am pleased with the reaction of the players."
He spoke of the idea of three at the back not being alien to any of the three likely to play at the back. Alongside Carra would be Rio Ferdinand and John Terry, and even without injuries it might have still been something he'd have considered: "We've got to change. We've got to look at different systems and we've got to look at the make-up of the team. If we play three at the back, those players we'll be putting in there have played it before."
Carra pretty much started out his defensive life (he'd been a central midfielder at youth/reserve level) in a back three. That was when Roy Evans was boss at Anfield, but apart from a couple of trials at the formation from Rafa Benitez last season it's not something he's played as much as McLaren makes out. Not that Carra will find it a problem of course, but Terry and Ferdinand don't seem to have played it too often either.
McLaren says that in domestic football changing systems is the norm, for various reasons: "There are all kinds of systems in the Premier League and I've been involved. We used to change systems out of necessity, because of injuries, because of opponents. To go to the next level we have to look at these situations. To go through the barrier we might try one or two things."
Rafa Benitez won't like the other comment McLaren had. After Rafa has complained that his players shouldn't be away for such a length of time during internationals he won't like the hint from McLaren that perhaps even that amount of time isn't enough: "You get very little time with England," said the former Middlesbrough boss.
There was joy for Liverpool's Scott Carson last night after he played a big part in the England Under-21's 2-0 win over Germany – in Germany. That made the aggregate scoreline 3-0 in England's favour and took the youngsters through to the finals of the Under-21 European Championships. Carson made a couple of saves when needed and had to face a penalty – which was blasted wide.
The game was overshadowed when it was revealed the England officials had made a formal complaint to UEFA about racist comments from German players toward English ones. Micah Richards and Anton Ferdinand claimed the opponents called them "monkeys". UEFA's president Lennart Johansson says that the claims will be looked at and if found to be true hinted that punishment could be quite severe: "This has to be investigated and it will have its consequences, that's clear. I cannot make any other comments – except that that I am upset and it will be investigated. It is for the disciplinary board to decide on a punishment. I won't speculate on the outcome but racism is a very serious issue." English football has come a long way since John Barnes had bananas thrown at him by bigoted opposition fans, but it seems that other countries are still miles behind England. Ironically the players had all been photographed before the game in front of an anti-racism banner.