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An age-old rivalry: England vs. Scotland UEFA Women’s Nation League match preview

Today, the England Lionesses are set to kick of their UEFA Women’s Nations League campaign against Scotland. This will be their first game back since the devastating loss in the World Cup Final and the Lionesses will be looking for a victory to secure their spot at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

It has been over four years since the two sides faced each other with the last match taking place in the group stage of the 2019 World Cup in France. This time, the two sides will be playing in front of a sold out crowd at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light at 7.45 on Friday 22nd September.

In addition to the the omissions of Leah Williamson, Beth Mead and Fran Kirby who all missed the World Cup this summer, the Lionesses will be without key midfielder Keira Walsh along with Arsenal’s Lotte Wubben-Moy, both out due to injuries. But, one of England’s greatest strengths is the depth of talent on their bench and there are plenty of players ready to step up onto the international stage.

Whilst Sarina isn’t renowned for rotating her squad, we have heard in recent press conferences that she is worried about the load on players with the sheer amount of international and club fixtures being slotted into such a short amount of time. As such, we could see her making some changes to give experienced players a rest as well as allowing new talent to shine. There have been discussions about the likes of Rachel Daly starting upfront whilst a Niamh Charles or Maya Le Tissier could slot into the backline. To fill in the gap Walsh will leave in midfield speculations have been made about the inclusion of Laura Coombs or Katie Zelem into the starting line up.

Scotland too will be missing key talent, notably, Chelsea’s midfield bright spark Erin Cuthbert is missing from the squad. But the Scots do have a bank of players who will challenge England all over the pitch. This includes WSL player of the year nominee Kirsty Hanson and Aston Villa and Scotland captain Rachel Corsie. Also in the squad is Real Madrid’s Caroline Weir who will certainly be a threat upfront that England will be looking to nullify. Weir made the move from Manchester City to Real Madrid and had a stellar season there scoring 28 goals and getting 15 assists. She has a great tactical mind to read games and the speed to make runs and pounce on play.

England do come into this game as favourites, but they also come with everything to play for. They have all eyes on them and with that comes pressure. Scotland on the other hand have nothing to lose, they can play with freedom and with an underdog mentality. They know England will have strong possession and enjoy passing the ball, but they can be at their best adapting to England’s style and playing on the counter with forward’s including Weir and new Tottenham transfer, Martha Thomas, making calculated runs into the box.

This match is highly anticipated, but questions remain about the Olympic Qualification element of the win as both teams compete at the Olympics under Great Britain, rather than individually as they do at World Cup tournaments.

A ruling was made ahead of the 2020 Olympics that the highest ranked team out of the four United Kingdom nations would compete for qualification and this has remained for the 2024 Games. This means that England, and only England, can seek a place on behalf of Great Britain, regardless of how well Scotland do.

The previous Olympic squad only included two Scottish players and one Welsh player. It is a contentious issue with all separate FA’s often failing to come to agreements and it will be interesting to see if, and how, this dynamic plays out in tomorrow’s game.

Olympic contention aside, this age-old rivalry game promises to be a thriller. Players on both sides know each other well with the majority playing in the Barclay’s Women’s Super League, that certainly will play into both coaches’ tactics. Make sure you tune in later today at 7.45pm on ITV.