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By ESPN Staff

Capello: Owen left out over fitness

Michael Owen has been left out of Fabio Capello's England squad on fitness grounds alone.

While there are bound to be some critics who feel Capello has an axe to grind with Owen, there would be little reason to fall out with the Newcastle striker, one of only four players to score 40 goals for England, given the lack of quality at his disposal.

Indeed, Capello spoke warmly of Owen earlier this week, comparing his predatory instincts to those of legendary Italy World Cup-winner Paulo Rossi.

But in the end, having watched Owen make his first full appearance in the flesh at Arsenal on Saturday, Capello felt the 28-year-old simply needed more games.

'Owen is a good player and always scores a lot of goals for England,' Capello said on Wednesday before adding: 'But he has not played and at this moment, we need fit players.'

With Owen missing out and Peter Crouch overlooked once more, Capello has stuck with the same four strikers he selected for the friendly draw with the Czech Republic last month, with Jermain Defoe tipped to partner Wayne Rooney when England open their World Cup qualifying campaign against Andorra in Barcelona.

Robert Green and Joleon Lescott have been recalled, while Glen Johnson will provide cover for Wes Brown at right-back as Gary Neville, like Owen, is deemed not fit enough and Micah Richards picked up a knock in City's win at Sunderland yesterday.

David Beckham has retained his place for a double-header that finishes with the crucial trip to Croatia despite his punishing schedule - he followed the England game with a trip to Beijing for the Olympics handover - and lack of worthwhile match practice with the Los Angeles Galaxy as the reasons behind an apparent decline in performance.

However, it is the selection of Fulham midfielder Jimmy Bullard that is the major surprise in his 23-man squad.

The 29-year-old has barely earned a mention as a potential candidate for Capello's squad, even after the loss of Steven Gerrard, who accompanied Owen Hargreaves and Michael Carrick onto the injured list.

But Bullard has found favour following an excellent start to the season, following his influential role in keeping the Cottagers up last term.

Capello is presumably banking on Bullard's experience helping him overcome any nerves at his first call-up and the Londoner's chirpy character should certainly help in the England dressing room.

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