Weekend Wanderings: debut Women’s Football Weekend and crunch-time for Northern Ireland

Alasdair Hooper gives us the low-down on which games we should be watching this weekend.

It’s a big weekend ahead – particularly in the women’s game.

Following last week’s record-breaking crowd when the Lionesses took on Germany at Wembley, it’s time for the FA’s first Women’s Football Weekend. There are some blockbuster fixtures on the cards.

There’s also the small matter of some important qualifiers in the men’s game, so buckle in and watch it all unfold.

Tottenham Hotspur Women v Arsenal Women (Sunday, 3pm)

The headline act of the Women’s Football Weekend is the North London Derby, set to take place at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in front of thousands of fans.

Spurs have made a habit of performing at these big stadium showcases – they’ve already played at Stamford Bridge and the London Stadium this season – but they have adapted well to life in the top flight.

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Yet rivals Arsenal are gunning to reclaim top spot, and they come into this tie following a morale-boosting win against Manchester City.

Tottenham are also on a good run of form, but much of the focus will be on trying to stop the likes of Vivianne Miedema and Kim Little from doing what they do best – creating and scoring.

Joe Montemurro’s side are favourites in this game, but it should be another great occasion.

Liverpool Women v Everton Women (Sunday, 3pm)

Another showcase in a big stadium, this time it’s the Merseyside derby at Anfield.

While a derby is always a tightly contested affair, this game has much more at stake when it comes to the league table — as well as being held in this famous arena.

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Liverpool’s form has been simply awful thus far this season. They sit bottom of the WSL with just a point. Manager Vicky Jepson must see this as an opportunity to kick-start their season.

With crowds of around 20,00 anticipated, there should be no greater motivation for Liverpool, although Willie Kirk’s Everton will be more than a match for them after their impressive start.

Chelsea Women v Manchester United Women (Sunday, 2pm)

As if there weren’t enough big fixtures in the WSL this weekend, here’s yet another.

Chelsea – who have just nabbed the signature of one of the world’s best strikers in Sam Kerr – host Manchester United at Kingsmeadow.

Both sides enter the tie having won their last five games in all competitions, and Chelsea are yet to lose so far this campaign. This is a match between two of the in-form sides of the division.

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It also sees two very talented female managers go head-to-head in Emma Hayes and Casey Stoney.

For Manchester United, however, it represents another test against tough opposition, which has so far proved to be their undoing in the league this year.

But with so much talent on the pitch this should certainly be an incredibly exciting affair.

Kosovo v England (Sunday, 5pm)

Of course, Sunday doesn’t just see women’s football take centre stage, as the men’s England side travel to face Kosovo.

Much of the week has been dominated by coverage of a canteen fight between Raheem Sterling and Joe Gomez, and Gareth Southgate’s response to it. But by the time Sunday’s match comes around, the Three Lions boss will hope the controversy will have been put to bed.

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This piece is being written before England take on Montenegro on Thursday night, but the Kosovo game should see a chance being afforded to a number of names to showcase what they can bring to this England side.

It could be another very exciting glimpse of what is to come in future international competitions.

Northern Ireland v Netherlands (Saturday, 7.45pm)

This is the first of a crucial pair of games for Northern Ireland, whose boss Michael O’Neill has just joined Stoke City as manager.

O’Neill has worked wonders so far, and will be hoping to do the same as he shares his current role with the one at Stoke City until the end of the season.

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During the last international break, Northern Ireland needed a positive result against the Netherlands but couldn’t pull off the win.

That defeat leaves them third in the group, with the Netherlands and Germany ahead of them.

On Saturday they face the Dutch and on Tuesday they take on Germany.

In all likelihood Northern Ireland will need at least one, if not two, spectacular results if they are to qualify for their second successive European Championships.

Michael O’Neill has proved the doubters wrong before. Can he do it again?

You can follow Alasdair on Twitter @adjhooper1992

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