October’s international break has finally given club teams a deserved break, as the UEFA Nations League takes centerstage over the next few days.
Many countries seek important victories in the inaugural competition as they head into their second slate of matches. Several World Cup teams will do battle this weekend for their first meeting since their summer adventures in Russia.
England has the toughest set of matches as they face Croatia in a rematch of one of the World Cup semifinals. Following their trip to Rijeka, the Three Lions head to Spain whom they have already lost to once in this competition.
Elsewhere, the Netherlands welcome Germany to Amsterdam on Saturday while Poland entertains Portugal at home two days prior. Belgium welcomes Switzerland to town on Friday in another intriguing showdown.
Here’s a closer look at this weekend’s top matches in the UEFA Nations League:
Croatia vs. England (Friday – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN2)
In their first meeting since a dramatic semi-final in Moscow this past July, Croatia and England will seek three points in Group 4 of the Nations League A. Croatia was handed their worst European defeat on Matchday 1, getting trounced by Spain 6-0 away from home. As they host their first match in the competition, holding possession will be key against a dangerous counter-attacking side like England. Midfielders Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic will be important if Croatia wants to bounce back.
England fell 2-1 to Spain in their opening match of the tournament, with Marcus Rashford scoring the lone goal. Offensively, the talent is there with Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, and Rashford leading the bunch. Gareth Southgate has also included some youth in his squad, bringing Jadon Sancho, James Maddison, and Mason Mount for the first time.
Netherlands vs. Germany (Saturday – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN+)
The Netherlands will square off with Germany for the first time competitively since 2012. The Dutch fell to the Germans 2-1 in the 2012 Euro’s and are coming off back-to-back tournaments where they did not qualify. Under Ronald Koeman, the Dutch are already behind in this competition, following a 2-1 loss to France in September. Youth has been the focus of the Netherlands under Koeman, with Memphis Depay, Ryan Babel, and Quincy Promes headlining the dynamic attack.
Germany drew 0-0 against World Cup winners France in September and will seek an important road win. Following their humiliating exit from Russia this summer, Joachim Low’s men will need to do their best to be successful. Longtime veterans Toni Kroos and Thomas Muller will headline the midfield, while Leroy Sane adds pace and excitement on the wings. Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng should be the starting CB pair in the backline.
Poland vs. Portugal (Thursday – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN+)
Defending European champs Portugal face a winnable trip to Poland on Thursday without their biggest star.
Cristiano Ronaldo will not be with Portugal due to off the field issues so numerous players will have to step up in his absence. Bernardo Silva adds technical ability in the midfield for Portugal, while Andre Silva is expected to be the danger man up top. Portugal is seeking a second consecutive win in the competition following a 1-0 triumph over Italy in their opener last month.
After a disappointing showing in Russia this summer, Poland grabbed a point in their Nations League opener against Italy in September. Robert Lewandowski will headline the attack for the hosts, while Piotr Zielinski is a talented player in midfield. The Napoli man has the lone goal for Poland so far in this tournament, and will also have Jakub Blaszczykowski and Grzegorz Krychowiak next to him for coverage.
Here’s all of the upcoming UEFA Nations League fixtures:
Poland vs. Portugal – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN+
Israel vs. Scotland – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN+
Lithuania vs. Romania – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN+
Montenegro vs. Serbia – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN+
Faroe Islands vs. Azerbaijan – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN+
Kosovo vs. Malta – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN+
Russia vs. Sweden – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN+
Belgium vs. Switzerland – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN+
Croatia vs. England – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN2
Austria vs. Northern Ireland – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN+
Greece vs. Hungary – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN+
Estonia vs. Finland – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN+
Belarus vs. Luxembourg – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN+
Moldova vs. San Marino – 2:45 p.m. – ESPNN
Slovakia vs. Czech Republic – 9 a.m. – ESPN+
Norway vs. Slovenia – 12 p.m. – ESPN3
Andorra vs. Georgia – 12 p.m. – ESPN+
Latvia vs. Kazakhstan – 12 p.m. – ESPN+
Armenia vs. Gibraltar – 12 p.m. – ESPN+
Netherlands vs. Germany – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN+
Republic of Ireland vs. Denmark – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN3
Bulgaria vs. Cyprus – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN+
Macedonia vs. Liechtenstein – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN+
Romania vs. Serbia – 9 a.m. – ESPN3
Russia vs. Turkey – 12 p.m. – ESPNN
Azerbaijan vs. Malta – 12 p.m. – ESPN+
Faroe Islands vs. Kosovo – 12 p.m. – ESPN+
Poland vs. Italy – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN
Israel vs. Albania – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN+
Lithuania vs. Montenegro – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN+
Iceland vs. Switzerland – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN2
Spain vs. England – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN+
Bosnia-Herzegovina vs. Northern Ireland – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN+
Estonia vs. Hungary – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN+
Finland vs. Greece – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN+
Belarus vs. Moldova – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN3
Luxembourg vs. San Marino – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN+
Kazakhstan vs. Andorra – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN+
Armenia vs. Macedonia – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN+
France vs. Germany – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN+
Ukraine vs. Czech Republic – 2:45 p.m. – ESPNN
Republic of Ireland vs. Wales – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN+
Norway vs. Bulgaria – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN+
Slovenia vs. Cyprus – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN+
Latvia vs. Georgia – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN+
Gibraltar vs. Liechtenstein – 2:45 p.m. – ESPN+