Baines: Teams will focus on Barkley
Leighton Baines has told Everton team-mate Ross Barkley to expect special attention from opponents after his bright start to the season.
Barkley, 19, has established himself as a regular this season, starting all seven Premier League games so far and winning acclaim for his performances.
The midfielder has been given his chance by Roberto Martinez, having made only four league starts in the previous two seasons under former boss David Moyes, scoring twice in the league so far and making his England debut as a substitute in September’s 4-0 World Cup qualifying win over Moldova.
Fellow England international Baines believes Barkley is well equipped to build on that good form, but expects opponents to make things tougher over the coming months.
The left-back told the Liverpool Echo: “He’s starting to build up a reputation now and teams are beginning to show him that bit more respect.
“In the first few games, maybe when they saw him on the teamsheet there was no preparation around him from the opposition -- but now there will be.
“That’s something he will have to learn to deal with, and he will because he’s going to be a top, top player. No doubt about it. The great thing for him is that he’s now getting his education on the pitch, which is the best place to learn. Now he has to combat the attention.”
Baines is set to play for England in their final World Cup qualifier against Poland at Wembley on Tuesday evening, when a win would ensure qualification for next summer’s finals in Brazil, with Ashley Cole injured.
He missed out on Fabio Capello’s England squad for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, and is determined to make it to Brazil.
“Qualifying for a World Cup is as big a carrot as you could probably dangle in front of any player,” he said. “World Cups don’t come around too often in a player’s career. Everyone is hungry for that opportunity to get there, and we are one game away from there.
“We know what job needs to be done, and hopefully we will do it. The magnitude of the game is something we are all aware of. On Friday [the 4-1 Wembley win over Montenegro], we had to make sure it was in our own hands -- and we have to go and finish the job now.”