England head coach Sarina Wiegman is ready to make widespread changes for the visit of Spain on Sunday, including giving Aston Villa goalkeeper Hannah Hampton a surprise senior debut.
The match at Carrow Road is the second of three games in six days for the Lionesses, who are hosting the round-robin Arnold Clark Cup to help with their preparations for this summer’s Euros. Record scorer Ellen White is expected to return to the starting line-up, while Manchester City full-back Lucy Bronze is also in line for a start as Wiegman rotates her squad.
Wiegman has selected five players – goalkeeper Mary Earps, defenders Millie Bright and Alex Greenwood, and attacking midfielders Ella Toone and Lauren Hemp – for all seven of her matches in charge but Telegraph Sport understands England are considering using three different goalkeepers for this tournament’s three games.
That is likely to mean 21-year-old keeper Hampton earns her first cap for the visit of the world’s form side, Spain, who have a growing reputation in the women’s game. When the draw for this summer’s Euros was made in October, bookmakers initially listed Spain as the sixth favourites at odds of 9-1; now they are 3-1 and stand-out market leaders to lift their first major international trophy.
Jorge Vilda’s side won 16 games in a row between March 2020 and the start of last week’s Arnold Clark Cup, scoring 96 goals in the process at an average of six per game. And of the 11 who started Thursday’s draw with Germany – when they conceded for the first time since the pandemic began – nine play for new European champions Barcelona.
Of course, the national team are not an exact replica of their all-conquering domestic champions, neither tactically nor in terms of personnel, especially as Barcelona’s formidable attack also consists of Nigeria’s Asisat Oshoala, Norway’s Caroline Graham Hansen and Holland’s Lieke Martens.
Yet there is no denying the similarities between the sides, especially when looking at the possession-controlling midfield trio of Alexia Putellas, Aitana Bonmati and Patricia Guijarro. Asked about how England planned to counter Spain’s stranglehold on the ball, Wiegman replied: “We think we’ll have the ball too and they’ll want to press us, and at certain moments we’ll want to press them, [plus] there’ll be moments when we just give them some time and space to play it around.
“We know they’re very tactical and technical. They’ve done really well, we’re aware. But we also think we have the opportunity to harm them too.”
Key to England’s chances will be the performance of their midfield, but sources in the camp say that the midfield could look very different to the one who faced Canada on Thursday, when Keira Walsh and Leah Williamson both played in deep-lying roles to good effect. Wiegman has not ruled out using that formation again, but stressed she wanted to continue to try out different tactics ahead of the Euros.
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