The Race to Face Croatia: Can anyone stop the Lingard Express?

Battle of the keepers heats up, while West Ham loanee continues his fine form in pursuit of a starting spot.

With just two months to go until England's Euro campaign gets underway against Croatia, minds are getting focused.

With time running out to make an impression, or recover from an injury, some England hopefuls are handling the pressure better than others.

So as Gareth Southgate gets closer to finalising his 23-man squad, Planet Sport takes its weekly look at the favourites to start for England on June 13.

Goalkeeper

Jordan Pickford (8/13 - via Sky Bet to start against Croatia)

Carlo Ancelotti confirmed this weekend that Jordan Pickford has still not recovered from his long-term abdominal injury and will remain sidelined for Everton's clash against Brighton on Monday night.

With Pickford's tendency for high-profile mistakes, his best chance at remaining favourite for England is to ride his luck on the sidelines and hope the high-flying Henderson slips up first.

Bubbling under

Dean Henderson (7/2)

With Pickford out, Henderson has wasted no time in ramping up his efforts for the No. 1 spot.

The arrival of David De Gea's newborn baby was just as much a gift to Henderson as it was to the Spaniard, with his absence providing Henderson with his desired spot in the Manchester United line-up.

And despite conceding to Heung-Min Son this weekend, Henderson's performances for United have been eye-catching. So much so that he has leapfrogged Nick Pope who missed Burnley's fixture against Newcastle United with a shoulder injury.

Defenders

Harry Maguire (1/8 via Sky Bet)

Manchester United's clash against Tottenham Hotspur this weekend gave us all a chance to see the battle of the Harrys as Maguire lined up against Harry Kane. But frankly it didn't matter how they performed, they'd still be the first two names on the England teamsheet this summer.

John Stones (1/5)

Despite being at fault for Leeds United's winner this weekend, Stones' darting runs through the heart of midfield were one of the only silver linings for Manchester City fans this weekend.

The result against Leeds this weekend is just a small setback in Stones' remarkable season, and if his assist against Poland is anything to go by, he's pretty good at recovering from setbacks. 

Chances are he'll be lining up in an England shirt this summer.

Luke Shaw (4/7 from 4/6)

The game against Tottenham this weekend gave Shaw a great chance to get one over Jose Mourinho after the public criticism the Portuguese dished out during his United tenure.

And he didn't let the opportunity slip, once again showing his attacking qualities on the left flank.

He finally looks like he's recovered from the horror leg injury he picked up in 2005 and is ready to stamp his authority on England's left-back position.

Kyle Walker (4/5)

After starting and playing well in Manchester City's victory against Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday, being omitted from the squad against Leeds this weekend was probably a stroke of good fortune for Walker when it comes to assessing his England starting chances.

Bubbling under

Trent Alexander-Arnold (11/8)

Leaving Alexander-Arnold out of the most recent international fixtures was more of a talking point than the games themselves.

However, the omission seems to have riled up the young right-back and he has refound his form for Liverpool. Well... in an attacking sense that is.

Alexander-Arnold built on his performance against Arsenal last week by scoring an injury-time winner against Aston Villa at theweekend.

Arguably you could say that's all he can do in his quest to return to Southgate's plans, but when taking his mistake against Real Madrid last Tuesday into consideration, his inclusion becomes questionable again.

Alexander-Arnold's attacking qualities have never been in doubt. He now has two months to show his defensive abilities if he hopes to make the England starting XI.

Ben Chilwell (13/8 from 6/4)

It's been a productive week for Chilwell in his pursuit of a starting spot.

After being handed a start against Porto on Wednesday night, Chilwell's second-half goal was enough to impress Thomas Tuchel and get his name on the teamsheet for Chelsea's Premier League fixture against Crystal Palace this weekend.

He finally looks to be winning over Tuchel in his battle with Marcos Alonso for the left wing-back position.

At first it seemed the five at the back system was hampering Chilwell's chances for England. But with experience now under his belt, if Southgate opts for a similar system, Chilwell could even pip Shaw to a starting spot.

Midfielders

Mason Mount (1/5 - via Sky Bet)

Mount carried his England form straight back into Chelsea, building on his goal tally with a deft finish against Porto in midweek.

His versatility and relentless energy has clearly impressed both Gareth Southgate and Tuchel and he looks nailed on to start against Croatia on June 13.

Declan Rice (2/7)

Currently suffering from a knee injury, Rice didn't feature in West Ham's vital clash against Leicester City last weekend.

But watching on from the stands, Rice's nervy minute-by-minute Twitter updates provided the levels of entertainment we're used to seeing from him on the pitch.

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Rice's form this season has been remarkable and, assuming he returns to fitness in time, there is little doubt he'll be among the starting XI against Croatia.

Phil Foden (6/5)

When trailing to Leeds United, Phil Foden was Pep Guardiola's go-to man off the bench, but he struggled to make an impact against a well-organised defence.

However, he stole the headlines on Tuesday after scoring a 90th-minute winner in Manchester City's Champions League tie against Borussia Dortmund. Stealing the limelight from Erling Haaland hasn't proved an easy task this season but Foden managed it and looks to be cementing his place in the England starting XI.

Bubbling under

Jordan Henderson (11/8)

Watching Liverpool's struggles from the sidelines can't have been easy for Henderson this season, and watching his chances at an England spot slip away will just rub salt in the wounds.

There's no doubt he'll be in contention if fit, but with his ongoing groin injury still stopping him from returning to training, his chances of facing Croatia seem to be dwindling.

Kalvin Phillips (6/4)

Leeds United's back-to-the-wall performance against Manchester City this weekend was personified by the efforts of Phillips.

His inclusion in the starting XI would've seemed nothing more than a pipe dream a few months ago, but with Henderson struggling for fitness and Rice needing a partner in the centre of the pitch, Phillips could sneak his way into Southgate's plans.

His gruelling work-rate and eye for a pass is what got him into the England side in the first place. However let's just hope he has slightly less defending to do against Croatia than he did against Manchester City, if he makes the team.

Jesse Lingard (3/1)

Lingard's renaissance has come at the perfect time.

With eight goals and three assists to his name in a West Ham shirt this season, Lingard is the Premier League's most in-form player and is slowly but surely forcing Southgate's hand.

A brace against Leicester City this weekend was Lingard's most recent masterstroke in his upturn of form, simultaneously enhancing his own and West Ham's European dreams.

Just like it was with his second goal against Leicester City this weekend, it seems it's the right place and right time for Lingard. And, if he continues his rich vein of form until the end of the season, he might just force his way into the starting XI.

Forwards

Harry Kane (1/7 from 1/6 via Sky Bet)

Harry Kane's performance against Manchester United was sub-par and still his odds have shortened. It says it all. Kane will undoubtedly lead the England line.

Raheem Sterling (1/5)

After being left out against Dortmund this week, Sterling's struggle to stand out for City this season continued. But with Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho both injury concerns, Sterling pretty much makes the starting XI by default.

Marcus Rashford (10/11 from 11/10)

After being subbed off yet again in Manchester United's victory over Tottenham this weekend, Rashford's struggle with injuries is becoming more and more obvious.

But even while carrying the weight of injuries (and occasionally the country), Rashford has enjoyed a very successful season, scoring 10 and assisting seven in the Premier League. If he's able to remain fit for the summer, he could be a very valuable asset to Southgate.

Bubbling under

Jadon Sancho (5/2 from 9/4)

Since suffering a muscle injury in March, Borussia Dortmund have struggled to fill the void left by Sancho.

Fifth in the Bundesliga, Dortmund look set to miss out on Champions League soccer next season, and at the same time are on the verge of being knocked out of the competition by Manchester City.

But after Dortmund officially stated that Sancho has returned to training this week, he has a perfect opportunity to turn their fortunes around and while moving himself back in contention for an England spot.

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