Early Doors

Is there a game on Saturday?

Early Doors

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Spain have recalled winger Jesus Navas and left-back Ignacio Monreal to their squad for the friendly against England at Wembley on Saturday.

Navas was involved in the build-up for the winning goal in last year's World Cup final which was set up by Cesc Fabregas and scored by Andres Iniesta, two more players in the squad after recent injury problems.

Coach Vicente del Bosque has picked a very strong 23-man party to represent the world and European champions, including eight players from Barcelona and five from Real Madrid.

England have lost all three of their most recent encounters against La Furia Roja without scoring a goal, since they won 3-0 in a Wembley friendly in 2001. In the team that day were such luminaries as Ugo Ehiogu, Gavin McCann and Michael Ball. How times change.

Early Doors feels it has to mention all this because it seems to be of very little interest to the rest of the media.

England are welcoming what will one day be looked upon as one of the greatest international sides in history into their own back yard, but you would hardly know it. All the talk in the build-up to this game will be about a range of other, insignificant factors.

For example, yesterday the FA announced the location of their team hotel for the Euro 2012 campaign, a stylish five-star pile in the centre of Krakow.  While the Hotel Stary is a far cry from the luxurious Black Forest resort they stayed at in Baden Baden in 2006 or the isolated complex in Phokeng that was their home last year, the fact Fabio Capello's players are not top-and-tailing in a youth hostel is still enough to raise plenty of hackles.

"Pampered yet again..." laments one comment below the story, as though the squad should be subjected to thrice-daily flagellation in preparation for their group matches.

"And us TAX PAYERS pick up the bill...as usual!" exclaims another, which is as hysterical as it is incorrect.

We have been gleefully informed that The Wags - that 46-legged, credit-card wielding kraken which emerges every two years (usually) intent on nothing more than distracting Our Boys from winning trophies - will not be allowed to stay at the same location during the tournament.

The Wags succeeded in ruining England's bid to win the 2006 World Cup by making Wayne Rooney stamp on Ricardo Carvalho's crown jewels, and was therefore banned from staying with the squad in South Africa last year. In a knee-jerk move not usually associated with the FA, on that occasion the squad was stationed at the Royal Bafokeng Complex on the outskirts of Rustenburg, a development which had the look and feel of a recession-hit, out-of-town business park.  

England's city centre location seems a sensible move to at least avoid the pitfalls of the previous two campaigns, and being stationed in a stimulating social environment will surely help keep spirits up after the staid isolation of last time. But really, it shouldn't matter.

Another line to come out of the press junket to Poland is that England's training base will be the stadium of local fourth division side Hutnik Krakow. Hutnik's profile was given a boost recently when some of their female fans posed for glamour shots to make a calendar raising funds for the club.

Cue plenty of 'fnar'-inducing puns about the club going bust and England having their knockers under the sub-heading 'Only the breast for Capello and co'.

Then, of course, there has been the distraction involving the situation with John Terry, as well as another highly emotive issue regarding FIFA denying England's request to wear poppies on their shirts on Saturday. The row which has been whipped up this year threatens to taint the dignity with which such tributes should be made.

While this is the closest England match to Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday since the custom was introduced on club shirts four years ago, it is difficult to imagine quite the same furore had the FA still been bidding for a World Cup.

Since they are no longer comfortable bedfellows with FIFA, England should just wear the poppies and then refuse to pay whatever fine is handed them.

All of these things are issues which are overshadowing what should be a grand occasion. Welcoming the best team in the world to your magnificent, sold-out, 90,000-seat arena is just about as good as it gets outside of a major championship.

So let's hope we can rise above all of these distracting side issues and non-stories sooner rather than later and focus on the football.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "What happened is very sad. Carlitos is now training at the club, but not with us. It is a shame. Hopefully, in these days or the next month it can be solved and he will be with us." - Manchester City's Sergio Aguero is the latest to express his wish that outcast Carlos Tevez can build bridges with the club and rejoin the squad.

FOREIGN VIEW: "My opinion is that our league has too many clubs. We have 20 and we should go down to 18, then to 16. This will mean that all the clubs will be more competitive and we can reduce players' salaries." - Barcelona president Sandro Rosell wants the number of clubs in La Liga reduced in order to make the division more competitive. Why not just reduce it to two teams?

COMING UP: We'll be bringing you our sideways look at the weekend's Premier League action in Hot or Not, as well as the latest edition of the Euro Club Index, ranking the top clubs in Europe.

Away from football, we'll be bringing you live coverage of the Paris Masters, the final regular men's tennis tournament of the season ahead of the year-ending ATP World Tour finals.

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