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Stoke City (A) Wed 4 Mar 2015, 19:45, Barclays Premier League

by Andy Lewis @efc_andylewis

Everton’s Leighton Baines hopes to take advantage of Ashley Cole's absence and enhance his claim for a regular England start.

Chelsea’s Cole is out of Friday’s World Cup qualifier in Moldova, paving the way for Baines to make a first competitive start for the Three Lions.

The Blues defender has nine caps and has steadily improved in an England shirt – now he aims to prove his credentials with crucial points at stake.

"Hopefully, if the manager selects me then there's an opportunity there for me," said Kirkby-born 27-year-old this week.

"Ashley has been fantastic over the years for England and it's been difficult for anyone to get a look-in really, so if the opportunity comes around, I'll look to take it."

Baines made his Three Lions bow in a friendly against Egypt in 2010 and then his competitive debut as a substitute for Cole against Switzerland the following year.

The defender added: "I've been around the squad for the last few years and picked up caps in friendlies, but with Ashley being the player he is, it's hard to get a look-in so it would be nice to get involved."

Meanwhile, Baines believes Roy Hodgson's relaxed managerial approach will bring the best out of England.

The left-back thinks there is less tension around the squad, compared to the ‘stiffer’ regime of previous coach Fabio Capello.

“There is a shift in mentality," said Baines.

"When you are around the place you are more relaxed and enjoy each other's company a bit more. Maybe it was a bit stiffer before that.

“It is difficult to make direct comparisons but Roy has had a positive influence. He is an English manager, so it is a lot easier for him to get his points across to the players.

"Now he has more time with the squad it has given him more chance to implement those ideas. Hopefully you will see that out on the pitch."

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