The second edition of the Nations League is scheduled to start next month. The draw for the group stages was made in March this year and the first two matchdays will be played between September 2 and September 10.
This will be the first piece of international action for many European players after the friendlies in March and June as well as Euro 2020 were postponed.
Let’s have a look at the top 5 matches to watch in Matchday 1 & 2.
Germany vs Spain – September 3: The 2014 and 2010 World Cup champions will come face-to-face at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Stuttgart. Both teams have been in transition following a disappointing 2018 World Cup and the forthcoming encounter is definitely the standout fixture in Match Day 1.
Although Germany are the betting favourites in almost any international fixture they go into, Spain have had their number in recent fixtures and along with France are one of two teams that Unibet and other bookmakers would back to beat Germany at the Euros next year.
Germany will feel the added pressure with the need to secure maximum points from their home outing. Since the turn of the century, Spain have had the edge over Germany in the head-to-head with three wins to two and they clearly have the advantage in the competitive games. La Roja had the better of Joachim Loew’s side in the final of Euro 2008 as well as the semi-final stage of the 2010 World Cup.
Iceland vs England – September 5: On paper, England should comfortably beat Iceland in their competition opener, but the hosts are capable of showing a strong defensive resolve on their day. The tiny nation has produced a number of standout displays over the years, but they are most fondly remembered for eliminating the Three Lions from Euro 2016 with a shock 2-1 win.
England have since come a long way under Gareth Southgate and they will be aiming to avenge the defeat in Nice four years ago. They are genuine favourites for the clash and will be boosted with key Iceland players such as Gylfi Sigurdsson, Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Alfred Finnbogason making themselves unavailable.
Portugal vs Croatia – September 5: Portugal will start their defence of the Nations League crown against Zlatko Dalic’s Croatia. The 2018 World Cup finalists were disappointing in the previous Nations League campaign where they finished bottom of their group. They will be without key midfielders in Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric, who have been excused on the back of their Champions League participation, but have plenty of experience throughout the squad.
Still, they face a tough test on Matchday 1 when they come up against Portugal’s star-studded attack. Cristiano Ronaldo needs no introduction and he has the likes of Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva to provide the defence-splitting passes.
Netherlands vs Poland – September 4: Dutch football has been on the rise over the past few years, having previously failed to qualify for Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup. Under Ronald Koeman, they managed to reach the final of the inaugural Nations League while also securing their berth for Euro 2020.
Koeman recently parted ways to become Barcelona’s head coach and assistant Dwight Lodeweges has now been handed the caretaker role. The Dutch have an excellent opportunity to beat Poland in the absence of captain Robert Lewandowski. The 32-year-old had a stellar scoring season at Bayern Munich with 55 goals from just 47 games, but he won’t take any part in the September games as he has been offered a breather after his Champions League exploits.
Netherlands vs Italy – September 7: Within three days of the Poland clash, the Netherlands have another home encounter against Roberto Mancini’s Italy. The fixture has historically favoured the Azzurri and the Dutch have won just three of their 21 meetings against them. Since 1978, the hosts have picked up just one victory from 14 attempts against the Azzurri and that came in the previous competitive game in Euro 2008, where they won by a comfortable 3-0 score.
The upcoming contest should be closely fought with both teams possessing solid defences and the chances could be at a premium. Italian striker Ciro Immobile is a player to watch out for after he netted a sublime tally of 39 goals from 44 matches for Lazio last season.
Stats from Transfermarkt.com and 11v11.com.