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Barkley eyes return to England squad

London (AFP) – Ross Barkley is optimistic that his performances for Premier League high-fliers Chelsea this season will earn an England recall when Gareth Southgate names his squad on Thursday.

Barkley has thrived under new Chelsea head coach Maurizio Sarri and hopes to be named in the England squad for Nations League matches with World Cup runners-up Croatia and Spain later this month.

“I’m playing a big role in the side at the minute and I believe my performances show I’m capable of being in the England squad, hopefully,” said the 24-year-old, who missed out on England’s World Cup squad.

Mateo Kovacic has been preferred to Barkley in recent Premier League games but the England midfielder started the Europa League win at PAOK and the League Cup success at Liverpool.

“The amount of games I’ve played, I’m ready to be called up,” Barkley said. “I’ve just got to do what I can for Chelsea and hopefully that will take care of itself with the national team.”

Southgate last month outlined his desire for a creative midfielder in the mould of former star Paul Gascoigne, a comment that might have attracted Barkley’s attention given previous comparisons between the two players.

Sarri said former Everton player Barkley, who missed almost all of last season, was “improving week by week”.

“I think that he can improve more, because he has the potential to improve more,” he added. “And so I think he can return to the national team.”

Unlike Barkley, Chelsea teammate Ruben Loftus-Cheek has been part of the England set-up in recent months but has remained on the fringes of first-team action at Stamford Bridge. 

The midfielder could feature in the starting line-up for the first time this season in Thursday’s Europa League match against Hungarian champions Vidi.

The 22-year-old has recovered from a shin problem and is in line for a call-up while Spain winger Pedro has recovered from a shoulder problem.

“I have to speak to Pedro. He’s doing better, like Loftus-Cheek. And so I think tomorrow every player is available,” said Sarri. “I have to change five, six, seven players — I don’t know at the moment (how many).”

“Maybe tomorrow it’s time to see Loftus-Cheek, I think,” the Italian manager said. “He was unlucky in the last three weeks, after the national team (break). He had a problem. In the last five, six days, he has been better, so I think he is able to play tomorrow.”

Last season Loftus-Cheek enjoyed an impressive loan spell at Crystal Palace and was rewarded with a place in England’s World Cup squad.

He has made just two substitute appearances this season for Chelsea but he retained his place in the England squad and played an hour in the recent friendly against Switzerland.

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