Fabio Capello is not just seeking one more victory in the Euro 2012 qualifier with Montenegro. At the age of 65, with retirement in sight, the aim can only be to emphasise that he still has it in him to renew a team. Here is a man in search of one last coup. There is another interpretation that pictures him as a person trying to shake off the memories of his ignominious campaign at the World Cup finals last year. Whatever the motive, Capello would like his last feat to be one of regeneration.
In that way he could emphasise another aspect of his talent. We see him currently as team-builder and nurturer of individuals. Even so, it would border on the libellous ever to describe him as indifferent to results. Capello is, to an extent, caught between a wish to recast the team for the long-term under his successor and the desire to deal with the immediate threat of Montenegro, even if the home side do intend to send out a weakened team so that players with a booking against them already will be available for their last match in the group, away to Switzerland.
The England manager still works on the assumption that the side will be put to a severe test. "It will be a tough game," he said. "I know the spirit of this team. We need to be really competitive." That issue leads to discussion of the feasibility of giving the teenager Phil Jones his debut at right-back. It is improbable that the manager has not settled the matter in his own mind, but that type of calculation would, if announced, reveal too much of his intentions.
Were Jones to be preferred, there would be a note of adventure to his scheme. Should he turn instead to Phil Jagielka, normally a centre-half, as right-back he would be tending towards caution. There are suggestions that Capello and his coaches seem to be tending towards boldness and Jones from the start, most likely with Theo Walcott as the winger on that flank. It would be a brave step but it would also simplify the approach to the match.
The intentions at least seem unambiguous. There may be a pairing of Gareth Barry and Scott Parker in front of the back four, but that could give licence to the remainder of the line-up. Wayne Rooney, for instance, might be at ease behind, say, Bobby Zamora at centre-forward. Capello is convinced that Rooney is in the right frame of mind to take part despite the arrest of the forward's father as part of an investigation into alleged betting irregularities.
Rooney, at least, is the type to feel relieved to be on the field. "Yes, he's OK," said Capello. "No problems. Absolutely no problem. He's calm, relaxed. I think, in a really short time, we'll find a solution. I think he's in a good moment of form and there will be no problem for the game tomorrow. He's told me he's good, no problems. In the last few days he's trained really, really well."
There is an impression at least of improved rapport with the squad. "I think the relationship within the players and me has improved," Capello said, "because I understand some things, but I think also the players understand me better. There are no problems about the relationship when we stay together, or about what I ask of them to do in training or during the game."
He stops short of admitting that he is mellower now, but there was widespread good humour. The official for the match is Wolfgang Stark, who sent off Didier Drogba at Stamford Bridge in a Champions League tie in 2010, when Chelsea were beaten. Terry's complaints and protests were ignored by the official. The England captain can be genial about it now. "He might owe me a couple," Terry said of the decisions to be made by the official.
It is Montenegro who might be the true concern, bearing in mind that they struck the bar late in the goalless draw with England at Wembley. The side stand 26th in the world rankings and for a nation with a population of a little more than 600,000 it is an achievement to be placed between Sweden and Hungary.
The greatest accolade, however, is the fact that few ever dare patronise them. The form may have dipped a little, but they still carry expectations that would be ludicrous if it were not for the fact that they have some convincing resources. For this match, the 21-year-old Fiorentina attacker Stevan Jovetic, who was injured at the time of the Wembley game, can link with Mirko Vucinic, an experienced striker who moved from Roma to Juventus in the summer for about £13m.
The left-back Milan Jovanovic called this occasion his "game of the decade", even if he will be absent should the manager stick to his plan to rest him and others. The side, whatever the composition, have the will and, to a degree, the means to make their mark. Montenegro sometimes carry expectations that compare with countries of far greater means. This is a side who will never be persuaded that their place is in some obscure corner of the football scene.
They have, for good or ill, an impatience with defeat more often associated with countries of greater resources. Branko Brnovic, formerly a coach, was promoted to manager last month, after the defeat by Wales that cost Zlatko Kranjcar his job. England are confronted by opponents who will be unlikely to shrink from the mere sight of Capello's players. With that in mind, the Italian has to decide just how idealistic he can afford to be.