Feature

7 Gunners facing Nations League ups and downs

Aaron Ramsdale in training for England

The next week will see the conclusion of the group stage of the 2022/23 UEFA Nations League, with seven of our men's squad receiving call-ups for some crucial games for their respective countries.

All of our internationals still have either promotion to fight for or relegation to avoid, so it’ll be a massive few days as our stars take to the field across the continent. 

Here are the major stories to look out for during the international break:

England duo aim to avoid the drop

Bukayo Saka in action for England

Bukayo Saka and Aaron Ramsdale have been included in Gareth Southgate’s England squad for their upcoming games with Italy and Germany.

In what will be the Three Lions’ final two matches before the 2022 World Cup, our duo will head to Milan’s San Siro on Friday to take on the side that beat them in the final of Euro 2020, before returning to Wembley to take on the Germans the following Monday.

England must beat the Azzurri to avoid being relegated to League B after a run of four games without a win - their worst run since 2014.

Three huge games for Tierney

Kieran Tierney celebrates for Scotland

Also in Nations League action, Kieran Tierney has been selected for Scotland’s squad for three Nations League games, two of which will be crunch ties with Ukraine.

As well as facing the side that knocked them out of the World Cup play-offs during the summer, the Scots sit a point behind their opponents at the top of the group, of which the winners will gain promotion to League A and a spot in the play-offs for Euro 2024.

The first game takes place at Hampden Park on Wednesday night, and the same venue will see Steve Clarke’s side face the Republic of Ireland three days later. Then Tierney will head to Poland for the return fixture against Ukraine, who will be without captain Oleksandr Zinchenko through injury.

Saliba’s France battling relegation

William Saliba playing for France against Austria

Having only accrued two points from their opening four games, William Saliba’s France must avoid defeat against Austria on Thursday to prevent demotion to League B.

The world champions are two points behind their opponents going into the game at the Stade de France, and will be hoping they can leapfrog the Austrians before their final group fixture away to leaders Denmark on Sunday.

Saliba has played in three of Le Bleus’ games this campaign, and has five caps in total for his nation since making his debut back in March.

Swift Swiss return for Xhaka

Granit Xhaka playing for Switzerland

As well as England and France, Granit Xhaka’s Switzerland are also facing a fight to stay in League A and will round off their campaign with tricky ties against Spain and the Czech Republic.

Group A2 is so tight that the Swiss could still finish anywhere from first to fourth, but that will depend on them beating Spain on Saturday in Zaragoza, before Xhaka returns to St Gallen’s Kybunpark where he skippered us two weeks ago in our Europa League win against FC Zurich to face the Czechs.

Doubts over Odegaard availability

Martin Odegaard claps the Norway fans

After missing last weekend’s 3-0 win against Brentford with a calf injury, it remains to be seen if Martin Odegaard will feature in either of Norway’s upcoming matches against Slovenia and Serbia.

Norway currently lead Group B4 and face bottom side Slovenia on Saturday, before a potential group decider against Serbia in Oslo that skipper Odegaard will hoping to be fit for with promotion and Euro 2024 play-off places up for grabs.

Hein aiming for promotion

Karl Hein in action for Estonia against Wales

Karl Hein’s Estonia will seal promotion back into League C should they beat Malta in Tallinn on Friday night. The shot-stopper’s nation have won both of their group games so far and lead their opponents on goal difference going into Malta’s final match of the three-team group. 

Hein’s side also have a subsequent game against San Marino the following Monday should they need a second chance to take top spot.

Full UEFA Nations League fixtures:

Wednesday, September 21
Scotland (Tierney) v Ukraine

Thursday, September 22
France (Saliba) v Austria

Friday, September 23
Italy v England (Saka, Ramsdale)
Estonia (Hein) v Malta

Saturday, September 24
Scotland (Tierney) v Republic of Ireland
Slovenia v Norway (Odegaard)
Spain v Switzerland (Xhaka)

Sunday, September 25
Denmark v France (Saliba)

Monday, September 26
England (Saka, Ramsdale) v Germany
San Marino v Estonia (Hein)

Tuesday, September 27
Ukraine v Scotland (Tierney)
Norway (Odegaard) v Serbia
Switzerland (Xhaka) v Czech Republic 

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