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By ESPN Staff

Agbonlahor backed to succeed by Pearce

Gabriel Agbonlahor has been backed to make a real impact at England senior level by his under-21s manager Stuart Pearce.

The Aston Villa striker has been named in Fabio Capello's 30-man provisional squad to face Switzerland next Wednesday and is expected to make the cut for the final 23.

Pearce believes that Agbonlahor and his Aston Villa team-mate Ashley Young will play a part in the friendly at Wembley.

'Gabby has serious pace, he's had the best season of his career and he's getting better,' said Pearce.

'From a team aspect his link-up play with Ashley Young has been fantastic, a feature of Aston Villa's good season and I hope he is successful with the seniors.'

Capello named five strikers in his provisional squad and if all come through today's matches unscathed one of those is sure to be dropped when the final line-up is confirmed tonight.

It would be a huge surprise were Michael Owen to be left out but he will still be grateful that his rivals are in as equally bad form as he is.

The Newcastle forward has scored one goal in his last 15 outings, while Peter Crouch has scored just one league goal for Liverpool all season, and Emile Heskey just once for Wigan in any competition this campaign.

Agbonlahor has not matched his pre-Christmas exploits in front of goal but nevertheless it would seem unlikely that Capello would drop him, because he has already deprived Pearce of his services for the under-21s.

Another Aston Villa player, central defender Curtis Davies, can expect to be among those cut however. Capello named 12 defenders in his provisional squad and four or even five of those will have to make way.

Ledley King's fragile fitness is likely to count against him - he struggles to play more than one match a week - while West Ham's Matthew Upson, Reading's Nicky Shorey and Portsmouth's Glen Johnson are favourites to also miss out.

That would leave Capello needing to cull one or two midfielders from his initial 10, an altogether more difficult task if all report fit for duty.

Steven Gerrard, Joe Cole, Owen Hargreaves are definite inclusions barring injury, with Young, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Gareth Barry and David Bentley probables.

Stewart Downing probably has the most to fear, as he has not enjoyed the best of seasons so far, while Jermaine Jenas and Michael Carrick would both feel hard-done-by if they were to be chopped, such has been their recent form.