5 English players who need stellar seasons to ensure World Cup spots

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Reuters / Carl Recine

The 2018 World Cup in Russia kicks off in a little more than eight months, and a handful of English internationals with caps under their belts face missing out on the quadrennial contest because of their domestic standing.

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Here's a look at five England hopefuls who need cracking campaigns with their clubs to cement inclusion in Gareth Southgate's 23-man squad for the trip to Russia:

Jack Wilshere

Pity the injury-riddled Jack Wilshere for a once-promising career that has since gone adrift courtesy of countless ailments. Still just 25 years old, Wilshere remains on the fringes of Arsenal's first team after a deadline day loan to Bournemouth last season ended with a broken leg, though it remains to be seen what role he will play at the Emirates.

With Granit Xhaka, Aaron Ramsey, and Mohamed Elneny all ahead of him on the depth chart, and Francis Coquelin able to come off the pine for a few bone-crunching late tackles, Wilshere's chances of an England recall rests with Arsene Wenger. Wilshere's penchant for running at defenders and getting between lines has proved useful in two Europa League appearances and a League Cup run-out against Doncaster.

Ross Barkley

From an Everton wantaway to a last-second move to Chelsea to an unlikely Toffees return, Ross Barkley is back at Goodison Park. Matters have changed on Merseyside, however, and the 22-time capped England midfielder will not walk into Ronald Koeman's starting XI with the same ease as before, and that could jeopardise his chances of catching a flight to Russia.

Gylfi Sigurdsson and Davy Klaassen have been added to the midfield, and with academy product Tom Davies set to continue his first-team tutelage, Barkley will be hard-pressed to replicate last season's performances. A January move may be necessary to garner Southgate's attention.

Luke Shaw

Left-back isn't exactly a position of strength for the Three Lions, and with the time frame for Danny Rose's protracted return from injury uncertain, there will be spots up for grabs in England's 23-man squad. Luke Shaw has the pedigree to make the team, but much of that depends on Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho and his plans for the 22-year-old Southampton product.

Assuming Rose gets the nod, Shaw will compete with Ryan Bertrand, Aaron Cresswell, and West Brom newcomer Kieran Gibbs for the role of deputy, but first, he'll have to usurp Daley Blind as the Red Devils' first-choice left-back. Easier said than done, especially after Mourinho questioned Shaw's professionalism and attitude in April.

Chris Smalling

Another United defender whose World Cup place is in doubt is 31-time capped centre-half Chris Smalling. With John Stones, Gary Cahill, and Red Devils' brethren Phil Jones preferred, Smalling was not called up for qualifiers against Malta and Slovakia. Southgate instead opted for Leicester's Harry Maguire and Everton summer singing Michael Keane alongside the aforementioned trio.

And like Shaw, Smalling's chances rest with Mourinho, who, with the addition of Victor Lindelof, now has Eric Bailly, Jones, and the Swedish international newcomer ahead of the World Cup hopeful who has appeared in only two of United's seven league matches this season.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Not content to play as a wing-back at Arsenal, nor with summer suitor Chelsea, Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain headed to Liverpool for an opportunity to helm a central midfield role under Jurgen Klopp's watch in hopes of boosting his club career. So far so bad for the 24-year-old.

With Liverpool competing on four fronts, The Ox will fight to breach a first-choice midfield trio of Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum, and Emre Can, a task made that much more challenging with the returns of Klopp favourite and next-door neighbour Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho. That said, Jake Livermore is currently earning appearances under Southgate, so Oxlade-Chamberlain may have an easier time finding a spot in England's midfield than in Liverpool's.

(Photos courtesy: Action Images)