It’s ‘the most senseless competition in the world’, according to Jurgen Klopp. But while the Liverpool manager might not be the Nations League’s biggest fan, the rest of us quite like it. Sure, it’s no World Cup, but the games are better than meaningless ol’ friendlies, aren’t they…?
The first round brought plenty of goals, action and talking points. And a mixed bag for the home nations. There were defeats for Northern Ireland and The Three Lions and wins for the Scots and the Welsh. October has some more Nations League action and so we thought we’d bring you previews of all the games concerning England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Because we’re nice like that.
We will, of course, be showing all the televised Nations League games. So feel free to join us down your nearest Rileys and catch all the action on one of our big screens. And while you’re there, why not play a game or two of pool before, after or during the game?
Now for those previews…
Games: Croatia (A), Friday 12th + Spain (A), Monday 15th
The newly contracted-up Gareth Southgate takes his young Lions on another little tour of Europe, this time of Croatia and Spain. England must face recent heartaches as they look to get revenge for two 2-1 defeats. The first of which is an opportunity to banish the demons of the summer’s World Cup semi-final defeat. The second of which was a recent reverse at the hands of Luis Enrique in this very competition.
Team news: Southgate was widely praised for his decision to introduce hungry new young players into his World Cup squad in the summer. Even though we’re now only in Autumn, he’s introducing even more. Called up to this squad are Chelsea youngster Mason Mount (currently on loan at Derby County), Leciester’s marauding full-back Ben Chilwell and Borussia Dortmund wunderkind Jadon Sancho. Also getting a first call-up is Brighton centre back Lewis Dunk. Fulham stopper Marcus Bettinelli also makes the squad again.
Did you know? The game against Croatia on Friday, at the Stadion HNK Rijeka, is set to take place behind closed doors. It’s part of sanctions against the Croats after a swastika was daubed onto the pitch before a Euro 2016 qualifier against Italy way back in June of 2015.
Prediction: Croatia got the better of England in the Summer, but after a 6-0 drubbing against the Spanish in this competition recently, we can’t see a repeat of that here. We can, however (and unfortunately) see a repeat performance against a resurgent and seemingly unstoppable Spain… 1-1 draw with Croatia, 2-1 defeat to Spain.
Games: Israel (A), Thursday 11th October
Alex McLeish’s men have only one Nations League fixture to contend with here, but will also be in action on Sunday 14th in a friendly against Portugal. The game they’ll be most focused on winning is Thursday evening’s away in Israel. Beat Andi Herzog’s Blue and Whites and the Scots will be sitting pretty atop Group C1, thanks in part to their 2-0 defeat of Albania last month.
Team news: Scotland will have to make do without star performer Ryan Fraser for the tie(s), with the in-form Bournemouth winger dropping out of the squad on Tuesday through injury. Leigh Griffiths also misses out after he chose to pull out of the squad due to his own ‘fitness issues’.
Did you know? Israel competed in qualification for the 1978, 1986 and 1990 World Cups in Oceania after so many Arab and European countries refused to play against them due to their position on Palestine and their rather central role in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Prediction: The Tartan Army got the better of Albania who, in turn, bested Israel. So it stands to reason that the Scots will triumph here. We see a tight but professional 1-0 win for Scotland (and a decent 1-1 draw in the friendly against the Selecção das Quinas).
Games: Republic of Ireland (A), Tuesday 16th October
Thursday night sees the Welsh take on Spain in a game few expect them to win, even if they are at home. It’ll be a tough game, but they’ll need it to prepare them for the tricky trip to Ireland some five days later. Ryan Giggs’ men may have humped the Irish in this competition last month, but Ireland were ravaged by injury and beset by controversy at the time. This should be a different game altogether.
Team news: A groin injury will keep the talismanic figure of Gareth Bale sidelined here. But the new Welsh sensation Ethan Ampadu will feature, as will one of the Premier League’s brightest new stars, Bournemouth’s David Brooks.
Did you know? Former Welsh international Robbie Savage was once dropped from the squad by then-manager Bobby Gould for ‘disrespecting’ Paolo Maldini before a game. His crime? He jokingly threw a replica shirt with Maldini’s name on the back in the bin.
Prediction: This will be a battle. And a much tougher proposition for the Welsh than last month. Without Bale they could struggle here. But we’ll fancy them to avoid defeat. 1-1. As for the earlier Spain game? A 2-0 loss.
Games: Austria (A), Friday 12th + Bosnia-Herzegovina (A), Monday 15th.
Two away ties await Michael O’Neill’s Northern Irish side as he looks to turn around recent poor form. First up is a game against Marko Arnautovic, David Alaba and Co. Then it’s a game against the country that have recently beaten both Austria and Northern Ireland, a supremely tricky away tie in Bosnia.
Team news: 38 year-old Rangers defender Gareth McAuley won’t be risked in either game, but Rotherham United striker Kyle Vassell has received his first call-up for the matches. Oxford United winger Gavin Whyte, who scored on his recent debut, will be hoping for more chances to impress.
Did you know? The Green and White Army have really struggled for goals away from home of late. In fact, they’ve failed to find the net in their last four away matches (Norway, Switzerland, Panama and Costa Rica).
Prediction: Michael O’Neill has done a fantastic job so far with Northern Ireland, but he may just be looking at two defeats out of two in the competition this week (and three from three in total). We can see a tough night against the wonderfully nicknamed ‘Das Team’. And an even tougher challenge in Sarajevo. 1-0 defeat to Austria and 2-0 defeat to Bosnia-Herzogovina.
So there we have it. Plenty of home nations action to enjoy over this weekend of Nations League football. You can, of course, settle in and watch it all at home. Or you get out and enjoy yourself down Rileys with a couple of drinks, some delicious food and a few games of pool or darts.
We’ve even got some tasty 3 for 2 deals on the go at the moment…
Monday to Friday, 5-7pm, is Happy Hour at Rileys. Grab a hat-trick of selected drinks and pay for only for 2!
(Available on Amstel, Strongbow, Budweiser (330ml bottles), selected spirits and mixers and our exciting new wine range).
Please note: This deal is not available in Central London or Scotland.