Rice 'England's best holding midfielder'
West Ham v Fulham, Sky Sports, tonight (KO 7.45)
West Ham boss Manuel Pellegrini believes Declan Rice is already England's best holding midfielder.
Rice, 20, last week pledged his international future to England despite having three caps for the Republic of Ireland.
The London-born player will make only his 60th West Ham appearance against Fulham tonight, but Pellegrini insists he is ready for the call-up when it comes from Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate.
Eric Dier and Jordan Henderson are Southgate's current picks to sit in front of the back four but Pellegrini rates Rice above both and said: "I think he is ready to play for England.
"I think we are just starting the development of him as a player, but at this moment his performances are better than every holding midfielder.
"At least I am taking about the English players. Maybe there are other foreign players in big teams that are also playing well, like Fernandinho, but I repeat we are just starting to see what will be with Declan in the future.
"He is improving in a lot of different things in that position. Maybe he must improve more and have a better view of the pitch but he has such good technique that he never misses a pass.
"He is always keeping his position in the correct moment so as young player he will always be learning more things, but at this moment I think he is a complete player."
Pellegrini was in charge of Argentinian side River Plate when a young Javier Mascherano came through the ranks. The Chilean claims Rice reminds him of the former Barcelona and Liverpool midfielder.
"It is difficult to compare different players in 20 years of management but Declan is a very good player," Pellegrini added. "I worked with so many young players. I started with Javier Mascherano when he was 17 and he was similar to Declan in his mentality.
"The mentality when they are 17 or 19 it seemed they had the mentality of a 35-year-old.
"When you have 17, 18, 19-year-olds arrive in the first team, playing in the first team changes a bit your mind and you think that you are ready.
"But in the case of Declan he knows that he is just starting, and that is important."
Meanwhile, Claudio Ranieri insists his relegation-threatened Fulham players feel "alive" because their fate could be settled in the coming weeks.
They sit eight points from safety in 19th place and have only 12 league games left to play. The Italian said: "Every time in training there is a very good atmosphere. They have given me a lot of confidence, because you see the players are alive."