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South Africa

Baines ready to take over from Cole

Leighton Baines says he is ready to seize his opportunity as England left-back with Ashley Cole's absent through injury for the World Cup qualifier in Moldova.

Baines will earn his 10th international cap, and his first competitive start, on Friday after Cole succumbed to an ankle complaint. The Everton defender insists he has maintained a level head while waiting for his opportunity to take the No. 3 shirt.

"It's been a bit of a slow-burner but I can't get too frustrated about that when the guy in front of me is such a good player - I have so much respect for him," said Baines.

"We have a situation when we train with England where the changing room isn't huge so there's a separate one for midgets. About half-a-dozen of us get put in the separate one because we all wear smaller kits so I guess it's easier for the kit-man. I get on really well with Ash because we rub shoulders in there. I end up chatting with him quite a lot."

The 27-year-old is also hoping to make the position his own when Cole returns from injury.

"You have to believe," said Baines. "Hopefully if I get the chance to play [in Chisinau] then I can do well enough for that to be a possibility. It's difficult because of what Ash brings to the table and for me it's just going to be one or two games really."

Baines is keen to experience Champions League football to boost his international chances, but insists he would never force his way out of Everton to get it. Manchester United were heavily linked to Baines in the summer, though a move did not eventuate.

"You want to get to the highest level you can and I keep doing my best in the hope that it comes," he said. "The main thing at club level is Champions League which is always going to be an aim. If you can do that it strengthens your chances at international level.

"There have been different bits in the last two or three windows, although there was probably a little bit more this time. There's nothing you can do but get on with your job. We're very blessed to do this job so I just stayed focused on that.

"You can't affect it anyway. It was mentioned that often I got puzzled by it because I'd heard nothing."


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