Ahead of England Women versus Northern Ireland Women on Saturday night, we pick out the key factors expected to decide the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup Qualifier at Wembley Stadium.
Impressively, England have won their last two qualifying matches by an aggregate score of 18-0, following thrasings of North Macedonia and Luxembourg.
Meanwhile, their opponents, Northern Ireland, have won consecutive games 4-0 with victories over Latvia and Luxembourg.
The Wembley factor
For the first time since the ground reopened in 2007, England’s Women will be playing a competitive match at Wembley.
Last time the Lionesses played here, they set a record attendance of 77,768 in a friendly against Germany.
The importance of such a stage cannot be underestimated in the growth of women’s football and sport in general. It is somewhat surprising that it has taken so long for England’s Women to play a competitive match under the famous arch.
Northern Ireland’s injury problems
If the prospect of playing England’s superstars was already a daunting task, Northern Ireland now look set to be without two of their best players.
Simone Magill, who plays at Everton, has already been ruled out for personal reasons. She had been named in the squad despite missing the last two internationals due to injury.
Likewise, Birmingham City defender Rebbeca Holloway is considered a major doubt by her boss Kenny Shiels.
Northern Ireland's stretched squad will be up against an England side that is stocked with Super League talent.
Make no mistake, it will be tough for them to cause an upset without two of their best talents.
Ellen White's night?
Back in February, White scored a hat-trick as England beat Northern Ireland 6-0 in a behind-closed-doors friendly at St George's Park.
Whilst Saturday evening brings quite a different stage, it is one White knows well. She scored in England’s last match at Wembley, netting her side’s only goal in the friendly against Germany back in 2019.
The Manchester City striker’s recent England form suggests she will find herself on the scoresheet once more on Saturday night. White has four goals in her last two international games.
Stanway bouncing back
Georgia Stanway returns to England duty for the first time since she was sent-off following a late tackle on Lean Galton in Manchester City’s 2-2 draw with Manchester United.
The City player will once again have the chance to star on the international stage following impressive performances across England’s midfield and front line in their last two qualifiers.
The 22-year-old will be hoping to put her recent WSL disappointment behind her.
Leah Williamson running the show
Despite shining as a centre-half whilst Arsenal recorded four consecutive clean-sheets in the WSL, Williamson has found herself back in the midfield for England.
And, it’s probably where she belongs. Albeit against two below-par sides, Williamson completely bossed England’s last two matches, controlling the tempo of the game as England asserted their dominance comfortably.
Against North Macedonia, Williamson captained England for the first time. At Wembley, she deserves to be one of the first names on Sarina Wiegman’s team sheet.
England’s match against Northern Ireland will be live on ITV1 on Saturday. Kick-off is at 17.15pm.News Now - Sport News