The first international break following this summer’s World Cup is underway and it’s also the start of a new tournament in Europe featuring plenty of top competition.
The UEFA Nations League kicks off for the first time on Thursday as 55 countries have been included in the inaugural campaign.
Headlining Thursday’s action is a battle between Germany and France who are both seeking a strong start in Group A1. Joachim Low’s men are seeking an impressive beginning to this tournament following an early exit in Russia. World Cup winners France, meanwhile are looking to knock off one of the big boys away from home.
Friday sees Roberto Mancini in charge of Italy for his first competitive fixture as the National Team manager. Standing in the way will be Poland who is coming off a disappointing summer of their own.
Also this weekend, Spain faces off with England at Wembley on Saturday while Wales travels to Denmark on Sunday. Portugal battles Italy on Monday while the Netherlands face a trip to France.
Here’s a closer look at the upcoming Nations League action:
Germany vs. France – Thursday, 2:45 p.m.
France will seek the perfect start to the Nations League as they face Germany at the Allianz Arena on Thursday. Les Bleus have plenty of their World Cup winning talent back for this European showdown with Kylian Mbappe and Paul Pogba being the centerpiece of their squad. Alphonse Areola is expected to start in goal with both Hugo Lloris and Steve Mandanda out for the match.
Germany will look to wipe away their poor World Cup showing out of their mouths as they welcome the defending champs to town. Joachim Low has many of his expected players in for this match and several veterans available. Toni Kroos will headline the midfield, while Thomas Muller and Marco Reus are expected to start higher in attack. Look for World Cup emit Leroy Sane to fight for a starting place after a sensational 2017-18 for Manchester City.
Italy vs. Poland – Friday, 12 p.m.
A pair of two new head coaches will face off for the first time on Friday in Bologna as Italy battles Poland. Former Man City and Inter boss Roberto Mancini takes over at Italy, seeking a positive start to his competitive regime. Talented forwards headline the Italian squad with Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne and Lazio’s Ciro Immobile the expected pair of frontmen. There is plenty of experience on the backend with Georgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci as the main centerbacks. Nice forward Mario Balotelli will look to make his first competitive appearance for the Azzurri since 2014.
Following a quick exit in this summer’s World Cup, Poland made the switch to bring in Jerzy Brzeczek as their new head coach. There will be no short of goals in Brzeczek’s squad with Bayern frontman Robert Lewandowski leading the line. Napoli’s Piotr Zielinski is off to a fast start in Serie A play and is another talented attacker to watch. West Ham keeper Lukasz Fabianski should retain his spot as the #1 goalkeeper as he hopes to keep out a feisty Italian attack.
England vs. Spain – Saturday, 2:45 p.m.
Gareth Southgate’s side have a tough opening match to the tournament as they face Spain at Wembley on Saturday. Following a fourth-place finish in Russia, the Three Lions will hope to knock off one of the heavyweights in the competition. Tottenham duo Harry Kane and Dele Alli are one of the best pairs in the world, and will look to translate their club form over to the international level once again. Marcus Rashford and Danny Welbeck are also available up top for the Three Lions.
Spain is coming off a shocking Round of 16 elimination to hosts Russia this summer and will look for a positive start under Luis Enrique. The former Barcelona manager is hoping to bring success back to the National Team after several trophy less years. Atletico Madrid forward Diego Costa has withdrawn from the squad for this weekend’s clash, which allowed Iago Aspas to be recalled. David De Gea will be in goal for Spain, while La Liga veterans Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique headline the backline.
Here’s all of this weekend’s Nations League fixtures:
- Kazakhstan vs. Georgia
- Armenia vs. Liechtenstein
- Germany vs. France
- Czech Republic vs. Ukraine
- Wales vs. Republic of Ireland
- Slovenia vs. Bulgaria
- Norway vs. Cyprus
- Latvia vs. Andorra
- Gibraltar vs. Macedonia
- Azerbaijan vs. Kosovo
- Italy vs. Poland
- Turkey vs. Russia
- Albania vs. Israel
- Lithuania vs. Serbia
- Romania vs. Montenegro
- Faroe Islands vs. Malta
- Northern Ireland vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina
- Switzerland vs. Iceland
- Finland vs. Hungary
- Belarus vs. San Marino
- England vs. Spain
- Estonia vs. Greece
- Luxembourg vs. Moldova
- Ukraine vs. Slovakia
- Denmark vs. Wales
- Bulgaria vs. Norway
- Georgia vs. Latvia
- Macedonia vs. Armenia
- France vs. Netherlands
- Cyprus vs. Slovenia
- Liechtenstein vs. Gibraltar