By 90Min
March 10, 2019

Gareth Southgate's England are set to continue their run in the UEFA Nations League in June when they face the Netherlands in the semi-final of the competition. 

With plenty of options to choose from, Southgate will be hoping to use March's European Championship qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Montenegro as a good chance to test some potential call-ups, whether they be debutants or returning stars.

Here are four defenders who will be looking to play their way into Southgate's plans.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Crystal Palace)

As most fans of the Premier League will tell you, Crystal Palace's Aaron Wan-Bissaka is the real deal. The 21-year-old's rise to prominence has been nothing short of extraordinary, and he now finds his name linked with the likes of Manchester City and Bayern Munich.

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As an out-and-out defender, there are few better full-backs than Wan-Bissaka, who has established himself as one of the most reliable tacklers in the league. He is yet to appear for Gareth Southgate's side, but that is surely set to change soon.

With Trent Alexander-Arnold also impressing, a pathway to the starting lineup is not exactly clear, but Wan-Bissaka certainly merits a place in the squad.

Chris Smalling (Manchester United)

Whether it's because of his new haircut or his new manager, Chris Smalling has really stepped his game up this season, and could be set for the reward of a return to the England squad.

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The Manchester United man has not been seen in an England shirt since June 2017, with the likes of John Stones and Harry Maguire dominating the Three Lions' lineup. However, Smalling has looked reborn this year, and it could well save his international career.

At 29, Smalling is playing some of the best football of his career, and fans will be keen for that to translate to the England squad.

Ashley Young (Manchester United) 

After playing a vital part in England's World Cup run, Young has found himself out of the squad ever since, with Southgate preferring the likes of Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell. However, Young has excelled under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and the 33-year-old will be keen on a return to the squad.

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Shaw has been incredible at left-back, forcing the versatile Young to try his hand on the opposite flank, but he looks as if he has been playing there for his entire career.

Yes, Southgate may want to focus on younger talent, but Young's form will certainly give him a real selection dilemma between now and June.

James Tarkowski (Burnley)

James Tarkowski has been on the fringes of the England squad for months, but found himself overlooked as a result of Burnley's disappointing performances in the Premier League. His club may still be struggling towards the bottom of the league, but Tarkowski has played as though his life depends on it.

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He featured as a substitute in a friendly victory over Switzerland in September, but has been omitted from the England squad ever since, with his reserve space going to Lewis Dunk and Michael Keane.

However, Tarkowski has worked tirelessly to keep himself in Southgate's plans, and it remains to be seen whether the Three Lions boss can find a place for him.

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