11 Centre Backs in the Running to Be Named in England's 2018 World Cup Squad

With the World Cup fast approaching, attention is starting to turn to who will make Gareth Southgate's England squad for the tournament. 

A position that is bound to be competitive is in the centre of defence, where a lot of new players have made their debut over the last two years. 

So, will the old guard be making way for a new generation of defenders for the World Cup squad? Will Southgate go with the tried and trusted? Or will it be a mixture of the two?

With Southgate recently experimenting with three at the back, central defence will be an important position to get right for the tournament. 

Here are the players who are in contention for the seats available on the plane to Russia.

11. Lewis Dunk (Brighton & Hove Albion)

International debut: N/A

Lewis Dunk is yet to make an England squad, but could be an outside shout for squads of the future. 

The Brighton and Hove Albion centre back has been touted for the England squad because of his impressive performances in his debut Premier League season, and has earned praise from both his manager and teammates.

Like Harry Maguire, Dunk has played every minute of his club's Premier League campaign so far this season, and has been an integral part of a Brighton side who lie 6 points clear of the relegation zone. 

It is unlikely that Dunk will get thrown into the World Cup squad, and may have to wait until after the tournament to make his international debut. 

Chance of making WC squad: 1/10

10. Ben Mee (Burnley)

International debut: N/A

Ben Mee is yet to earn an international cap, despite being widely touted as a possible call up to the senior England side. 

The 28-year-old has previously played for England U19s, U20s and U21 side, but has not yet been selected to be part of the full England team. 

The Burnley defender has been in impressive form for his club for the last two Premier League seasons, as the Clarets have established themselves in the top division of English football. 

If Mee keeps up his performances, and leads his team to European qualification, he may have an outside chance of making Southgate's squad. However, his chance might have gone with the latest squad announcement. 

Chance of making WC squad: 2/10

9. Michael Keane (Everton)

International debut: March 2017

Michael Keane was given his international debut by current manager Gareth Southgate in a 1-0 friendly loss against Germany last year, and has since gone on to earn another three caps. 

Keane earned his first call up when he was at Burnley, due to a string of impressive performances for the Clarets. Them performances also got him a summer move to Merseyside, as he joined Everton

However, the move of clubs hasn't really worked out the way that Keane would have hoped, and his league form has dropped over the last few months. 

Because of this he has now not been included in the England squad for the upcoming friendlies, and unless the 25-year-old turns around his domestic form, then a place in the squad looks unlikley. 

Chance of making WC squad: 3/10

8. Chris Smalling (Manchester United)

International debut: September 2011

Chris Smalling seems to have fallen down the pecking order under current boss Gareth Southgate, and may face a battle to make it on the plane to Russia. 

The Manchester United player has not been selected in the last 2 England squads, despite having 31 international caps and playing regularly for his club. 

Southgate admitted in November that he has doubts about Smalling's ability to play out from the back, and that the defender may not fit the way in which he wants his team to play. 

Chance of making WC squad: 4/10

7. James Tarkowski (Burnley)

International debut: N/A

Like Alfie Mawson, Tarkowski is yet to earn a cap on the international stage, and has been given the chance to impress by being named in the squad for the upcoming friendlies. 

The Burnley defender has established himself as an integral part of an impressive defence for the Clarets so far this campaign, and has earned his reward by being given his first ever international call up from Gareth Southgate. 

Tarkowski has worked his way up through the leagues to establish himself in the Premier League, and the former Oldham and Brentford defender will now be hoping he can also establish himself on the international stage. 

Chance of making the WC squad: 5/10

6. Alfie Mawson (Swansea City)

International debut: N/A

Alfie Mawson will be hoping to earn his first England cap in the friendlies against the Netherlands and Italy after being named in the England squad for the first time on Thursday. 

The 24-year-old former England U21 international has impressed at Swansea since his move from Barnsley in the summer of 2016, and has played an integral part in the Swans' revival under new boss Carlos Carvalhal. 

Mawson now has two games to impress Southgate in order to get his place in the World Cup Squad. Whether his call-up has come just a bit too late is still to be seen.

Chance of making WC squad: 5/10

5. Gary Cahill (Chelsea)

International debut: September 2010

Cahill is the most established and experienced defender that England have available to them. The 32-year-old has 58 caps for the Three Lions since making his debut in 2010 under former boss Fabio Capello. 

He has been in and out of the Chelsea team so far this season, due to faltering form, and it seems that that form has not gone unnoticed by England boss Gareth Southgate, as Cahill has been left out of the latest squad in favour of more up-and-coming defenders.

Cahill captained England against Germany in November, but unless his performances improve and he establishes himself back in the Chelsea starting lineup, then his place in the World Cup squad could be in doubt. 

Chance of making WC squad: 7/10

4. Joe Gomez (Liverpool)

International debut: November 2017 

Gomez made his international debut when he replaced the injured Phil Jones against Germany, with his full debut coming against Brazil, just four days later, a game in which he earned the man of the match award. 

Despite his tender years, the youngster looked assured on the international stage, being part of a defence that stopped both world champions, Germany, and a Brazil team with the likes of Neymar and Coutinho from finding the net. 

He is sure to get another chance to impress in the upcoming friendlies against the Netherlands and Italy, and if he continues his performances this season, then he should be a shoo-in for the  squad for Russia. 

Chance of making WC squad: 7/10

3. Phil Jones (Manchester United)

International debut: October 2011

Phil Jones is one of the more established centre backs to be left out of Gareth Southgate's latest squad, although this could be mainly due to a hamstring injury that the player currently has. 

Jones has missed the last four games for his club due to the injury, and it not clear when he will return to action. 

The Manchester United defender has 24 senior caps, but has been in and out of the England team for the past three years, due to injury and faltering form. The 26-year-old only played two of the 10 games of the qualification campaign. 

Chance of making WC squad: 7.5/10

2. Harry Maguire (Leicester City)

International debut: October 2017

Maguire has been selected in the last two England squads, since making his debut in the final qualifier at Lithuania as part of a back three. In his three starts in a Three Lions shirt, England are yet to concede a goal. 

Maguire has played every minute in the Premier League for Leicester so far this season, and is known for being able to bring the ball out from the back, aswell as his defensive abilities. He started the move that led to England's only goal of the game in his debut against Lithuania. 

With Southgate insisting that he will select players who are playing regularly for their club, barring injury, Maguire should get a place on the plane. 

Chance of making WC squad: 8/10

1. John Stones (Manchester City)

International debut: May 2014

Although John Stones is one of the more established members of the England squad, with 22 international caps, it is hard to forget that he is still only 23.

The Manchester City defender spent the whole of Euro 2016 sitting on the bench, but has been a regular in the World Cup qualification campaign. 

Injury has somewhat hampered his involvement in Pep Guardiola's runaway Man City team this season, although he has managed 16 Premier League appearances. 

With mistakes becoming more of a premium in his game, Stones could be a mainstay in the centre of defence for England for may years to come. 

Chance of making WC squad: 9/10