Weekend Wanderings: Women’s Football Weekend and international break

Another weekend of football is around the corner as the men’s international break arrives again.

With players jetting across the world to join national set-ups, there are no shortage of big games – but that’s also true back home with two big clashes in the WSL.

Alasdair Hooper runs down the games you can look forward to this weekend.

Manchester United Women vs Manchester City Women (Saturday 12.30pm)

Could Manchester United be real title contenders? If last week’s performance is anything to go by then absolutely the answer is yes.

Their impressive 1-0 win over Arsenal ended the Gunners’ perfect start to the season and, in the process, it left Casey Stoney’s team top of the WSL table with five wins and a draw in six games.

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But the massive games don’t stop there as United host their derby rivals Manchester City this Saturday lunchtime as part of the Women’s Football Weekend.

But this is also a Manchester City side who aren’t hitting their full potential just yet, which could mean United go into the game as marginal favourites.

A win here for the Red Devils would only enhance their credentials as title contenders.

Portugal vs France (Saturday, 7.45pm)

Granted, the last time I recommended this Nations League fixture as one to watch I did not expect a 0-0 draw – and that’s what we got.

But this time I’m going to cross my fingers and hope for better as the reigning European Champions and World Champions face each other once again.

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On paper it’s an enticing fixture and there will plenty of stars on show but it’s also the game that could ultimately determine who finishes top of their Nations League group.

Regardless of your thoughts of the Nations League, that should be a bit of extra incentive for the players, and hopefully some goals.

Arsenal Women vs Chelsea Women (Sunday, 2.30pm)

On Sunday afternoon Arsenal, looking to bounce back from their aforementioned loss last weekend, host fellow WSL giants Chelsea in a fixture that Emma Hayes has owned recently.

Along with United, Chelsea are the only other team in the WSL not to have lost – they have played a game less than their rivals as well – and a win here will be another huge step as they look to retain their title.

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For Joe Montemurro though it’s another big test. You get the feeling that they need to turn these big clashes into victories sometime soon if they want to win silverware again.

After last week’s loss, another setback in a congested league could be incredibly damaging.

Wales vs Republic of Ireland (Sunday, 5pm)

It’s a big week for the home nations – particularly Scotland who are yet to play their Thursday night play-off as this piece is written – but Wales and the Republic of Ireland also have a big head-to-head this Sunday.

For the visitors much has been made of life under manager Stephen Kenny, who is looking to implement a different style after Mick McCarthy’s tenure.

However, having lost Aaron Connolly and Callum Robinson to injury and a positive Covid-19 test respectively, life has been far from smooth for the Ireland boss.

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In the Nations league, it’s two wins and two draws and they will hope to get something against group leaders Wales.

Of course, while they may be leading their Nations League group, the Welsh have their own challenges to deal with due to the absence of manager Ryan Giggs.

Belgium vs England (Sunday, 7.45pm)

England will also be in Nations League action this weekend against Belgium, who they of course beat in the reverse fixture despite an underwhelming performance.

Of course, that was soon ancient history once the Three Lions lost to Denmark and Gareth Southgate will be on the hunt for consistent performances sooner rather than later.

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His squad remains full of exciting potential, particularly with Phil Foden and Jude Bellingham joining the midfield ranks, but there’s also some selection concerns.

Southgate will undoubtedly have wanted Liverpool’s Joe Gomez involved, for example, and his injury will be a significant blow.

While the Nations League group will be the main agenda, this game will also be another important step as England try and find their perfect line-up ahead of the summer.

Follow Alasdair on Twitter @adjhooper1992

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