Beckham set to appear in ‘match-up of superstars’

David Beckham can equal an England record for appearances when it plays European champion Spain in what will be Fabio Capello's toughest test.

Written by Associated Press | Seville (spain), | Published: February 11, 2009 12:22:12 pm

David Beckham can equal an England record for appearances when it plays European champion Spain on Wednesday in what will be Fabio Capello’s toughest test during an impressive start as coach.

Beckham can equal Bobby Moore’s mark of 108 appearances for England,the most by an outfield player and second only to Peter Shilton’s 125 appearances in goal.

“I have to choose the best 11 and David Beckham is here because he is playing well with AC Milan and perhaps tomorrow he will play,but I’m not sure at this point,” Capello said.

“David Beckham is important for the group at this moment.” Capello has recalled Beckham to the squad after the Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder moved to Milan to keep alive his chances of playing in the 2010 World Cup. Beckham is looking to turn his loan deal into a permanent move,something that Capello has supported.

Capello labeled the match an “important test.” England was off to the best start under a coach since Alf Ramsey,who led England to victory at the 1966 World Cup,with eight wins in 10 games and a single defeat.

“After we won against Germany,the vice champion of Europe,and now (playing) against Spain,it would be very important to know the value of our team against a different style of players,” said Capello,who promised to rotate his players.

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque puts Capello’s successful reconstruction of England down to defense,discipline and an emerging crop of players.

“There is a new generation of young English players that are very talented and will be very good,are very good,” Del Bosque said. “But their injuries are still important injuries.”

Regulars Wayne Rooney and Jermaine Defoe as well as defender Luke Young are out,while striker Emile Heskey is a game-time decision. Heskey was among six players from Aston Villa,including midfielder James Milner.

Striker Carlton Cole of West Ham could also make a debut. Capello said it was important to recover “the spirit of the group,” which will have defender Ashley Cole returning and John Terry and Rio Ferdinand available to anchor the defence for the first time since a World Cup qualifying win at Croatia last year.

“Some players play very well with the club but not with the same confidence with the national team,” Capello said. “We need to play more games with more confidence with us. I want to see players without fear and with confidence.”

Spain,the world’s top-ranked country,was on a 28-match unbeaten run dating to November 2006. Del Bosque has won six straight since replacing Luis Aragones,while Spain has taken 18 straight when including an extra-time penalty victory over Italy at last year’s European Championship.

“The truth is that it’s a game of superstars,an attractive matchup,” Del Bosque said.

Striker Fernando Torres will play despite only recently returning from a hamstring injury,which had left Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez concerned.

“Everyone wants to enjoy this great moment with the national squad after having gone through bad times in other years,” said Torres,one of five Liverpool players in the team.

Centre backs Carles Puyol and Juanito Gutierrez are both out to injury,with Barcelona teammate Gerard Pique filling his spot and Sergio Busquets earning a maiden call-up.

Valencia winger David Silva also returns. Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas will move into third in Spain’s all-time appearances list with 89,trailing only Real Madrid teammate Raul Gonzalez (102) and Andoni Zubizaretta (126).

“I’ve never made a point to think about it. I just take it step-by-step,” the 27-year-old Casillas said. “But it’s an honour.”

It is the teams’ first meeting since spectators at Santiago Bernabeu Stadium greeted England’s black football players with monkey chants during a friendly in 2004.

Spain players were not allowed to respond to questions by reporters yesterday over whether a repeat of those scenes would play out at Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.

“If it’s as bad as last time then I think the referee will have to step in and make a decision,” Terry said.

Spain leads Group 5 in World Cup qualifying with 12 points from four games — three more than Turkey,while England was also perfect through four games to lead Group 6 by five points over Croatia.

The match is Capello’s first return to Spain since leading Real Madrid to the Spanish league title in 2007,although the Italian was fired two weeks after the club’s record 30th league trophy.

England has won 11 of the 21 friendlies between the two countries,although the last two went to Spain,which has never lost in 22 matches at Sevilla’s home stadium.

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