Rio Ferdinand's stiff back will keep him out of England's match with Andorra in Barcelona. However, the central defender is still expected to play against Croatia in Zagreb on Saturday.
The 29-year-old has been struggling with a stiff back all week and has been sitting out training sessions as England prepare to play their first qualifier for the 2010 World Cup. Coach Fabio Capello confirmed the Manchester United man's absence in a press conference on Friday but spoke of his hope of being able to field his first-choice centre-back pairing on Wednesday.
With captain John Terry fit to play, Matthew Upson, Joleon Lescott and Wes Brown are competing for a starting role alongside the Chelsea man. Capello also urged Wayne Rooney to regain his goalscoring touch as the England head coach defended his decision to leave out Michael Owen for the World Cup qualifiers with Andorra and Croatia. Capello opted not to select Owen, despite his scoring record of 40 goals in 89 internationals, after watching him in action for Newcastle against Arsenal last weekend. Capello said: 'I considered everything when I watched Michael. It was his first full game. I checked him very well and he was not fit. These days it is important for players to be 100 percent fit. 'The door is always open though to someone like Michael who is such a good goal scorer and maybe for the next games the situation will be different.'' After five friendly internationals, England will finally move into competitive action and Capello is optimistic that they will be able to qualify for the 2010 finals in South Africa. He said: 'I have confidence in this England team. We're only just starting on the road to South Africa but we are ready. 'We've played the five friendlies including the last one against a strong team like the Czech Republic. I saw a lot of things in that game. 'Everyone knows how important it is for England to play in big tournaments and everyone is focused on trying to achieve that goal.'