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UEFA Nations League Preview

England v Belgium

With domestic seasons now on hold after a blistering first month back, the international fixtures return this weekend. Teams will play two Nations League fixtures over the coming week and, following a lethargic first two games which felt more like pre-season for many, this round should produce some more exciting matches.

The likes of Spain and Germany feature on Saturday as they play Switzerland and Ukraine respectively. More matches take place on Sunday however as the Republic of Ireland face Wales in Dublin while England host Belgium for the first time since 2018 when the met in the World Cup third-place qualifier. The pinnacle fixture of the weekend comes from Paris as the Nations League and EURO holders Portugal face current World Cup holders, France.

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Spain v Switzerland

Spain are currently on a 13-match unbeaten run, which stretches back to a 3-2 loss to Croatia in November 2018. They have scored 17 goals in their last four international fixtures and conceded just one. Spain put four past Ukraine in their second Nations League Group A4 match last time out.

Despite losing their opening Nations League Group A4 fixture 2-1 to Ukraine, Switzerland recovered from a goal down against Germany in their following fixture to gain a point. They were unlucky not to take all three in this game, attacking regularly and amounting 20 shots on goal. Switzerland have only lost two of their last eight international fixtures, winning four and drawing two.

Spain have no injury concerns or suspensions coming into this fixture. Thiago Alcantara was not selected for the Spain squad as he recovers from COVID-19 and Marco Asensio was also omitted due to a thigh injury. For Switzerland, Renato Steffen did not join the squad after testing positive for coronavirus, while Fabian Schar has been selected despite a recent shoulder injury.

A 1-1 draw couldn’t separate these two sides in their last meeting in 2018. However, Spain are the stronger team coming into this one and they should overcome a patchy Switzerland side.

Spain – 4/11

Draw – 7/2

Switzerland – 7/1

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Republic of Ireland v Wales

New manager Stephen Kenny will be looking to steer Ireland’s Nations League campaign back on track after a close 1-1 draw with Bulgaria and a 1-0 loss to Finland leaves them third in League B4. Ireland have won just one game in their last six, a 3-1 victory in a friendly against New Zealand last year. Goals are a concern for Ireland as they’ve only found the net twice in their last four competitive fixtures.

Wales are in good form coming into this fixture. They are unbeaten in their last eight international matches, winning six and drawing two. Defensive structure appears to be the key for their success under Ryan Giggs as his side have conceded just three in their last eight and scored 11. Wales beat Ireland twice in their previous two Nations League fixtures in 2018.

Seamus Coleman (hamstring) and Darragh Lenihan were both left of the Ireland squad. Wales will be without both Gareth Bale (knee) and Aaron Ramsey, who cannot join due to Juventus’ COVID-19 restrictions.

Wales should continue their good form against Ireland on Sunday as the hosts transition into a new era under Stephen Kenny.

Ireland – 17/10

Draw – 19/10

Wales – 7/4

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England v Belgium

England struggled in their opening two Nations League games in September. A drab 1-0 win over Iceland followed by an unconvincing 0-0 draw with Denmark leaves them two points behind Belgium in group A2 coming into this fixture. However, the Three Lions are unbeaten in five international matches and have only lost two in their last 15 overall.

Belgium are currently the world’s top ranked team following 12 successive wins since November 2018. They have scored 45 goals in this run and conceded just four. Belgium sit top of Nations League Group A2 after convincing wins over Denmark (2-0) and Iceland (5-1) to kick off their 2020 campaign.

Raheem Sterling has withdrawn for England due to a hamstring concern. Tammy Abraham, Jadon Sancho and Ben Chilwell could be back with the squad for the Belgium game despite missing the Wales friendly after breaching COVID-19 social distancing rules. Eden Hazard is a doubt for Belgium after suffering an ongoing ankle injury, but he has still been named in Roberto Martinez’s extended 33 strong squad.

England will struggle against a strong Belgium side who will be looking to maintain their exceptional winning run, making the visitors favourites to gain all three points at Wembley on Sunday.

England – 6/4

Draw – 9/4

Belgium – 17/10

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France v Portugal

France comfortably defeated Sweden 1-0 and Croatia 4-2 in their opening Nations League fixtures last month. The current World Champions have won their last four games in a row and have been victorious in eight of their last nine in all competitions. They have scored 22 in their last nine fixtures but have won three of these games by just a single goal.

Portugal top Group A3 on goal difference after 4-1 and 2-0 wins over Croatia and Sweden in September. They have racked up four straight wins in all competitions since a 2-0 loss to Ukraine back in October 2019, scoring 14, keeping three clean sheets, and conceding just one goal in this run. Portugal won the inaugural Nations League in June last year and they have not lost a game in the competition so far.

France defender Leo Dubois has left the squad after testing positive for coronavirus but Paul Pogba returns to the squad. Portugal have no fresh injury or concerns coming into this fixture.

The last team these two teams met; the stakes were slightly higher. Portugal went on to beat France 1-0 after extra time in the EURO championship final in 2016. Both sides have started this year’s Nations League competition brightly and have plenty of quality in their respective squads, which could lead to a score draw in this fixture.

France – 23/20

Draw – 2/1

Portugal – 13/5

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