UEFA Nations League (League B): Fixtures, head to head and latest news
Following on from my previous article looking into the League A groups of the 2020-21 UEFA Nations League we now turn our attention to league B of this European international football format.
League B: Group 1: Austria, Norway, Northern Ireland, and Romania
Romania v Northern Ireland; Venue: Arena Nationala, Bucharest
New Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough takes his Northern Ireland side to Bucharest to face Mirel Radoi's Romania in a League B Group 1 encounter. Both teams will be eager to put up a good show and start the new campaign on a positive note. Northern Ireland made good strides as a compact international side during the reign of former manager Michael O'Neill and former Northern Ireland U-21 manager Baraclough has big shoes to fill in the upcoming challenges.
Head to Head: Romania- 2 wins, Northern Ireland- 3 wins, Drawn- 1
Norway v Austria; Venue: Ullevaal Stadion, Oslo
All eyes will be on Borussia Dortmund's 20-year-old prodigy Erling Haaland as the striker is determined to showcase his immense talent in the international arena. The first hurdle for Haaland and his Norwegian side is the visit of experienced Austria to the Norwegian capital. Under German coach Franco Foda, Austria qualified for Euro 2020 with minimum fuss and are extremely organized and disciplined and Das Team has a good record against Norway over the years.
Head to Head: Norway- 2 wins, Austria- 7 wins, Drawn- 1
League B: Group 2: Czech Republic, Scotland, Slovakia and Israel
Scotland v Israel; Venue: Hampden Park, Glasgow
This is a nice dress rehearsal for both sides as they gear up for their delayed Euro 2020 playoff semi-final in October. Both Scotland and Israel are getting habituated to face each other as the two sides were drawn together in the inaugural edition of the Nations League. Steve Clarke's side would like to make a fast start to the competition against a robust Israeli side under caretaker boss Willibald Ruttensteiner to keep their confidence going for tougher challenges ahead. The sides' last meeting was a 3-2 win for the Scots that secured their promotion to League B.
Head to Head: Scotland- 4 wins, Israel- 1 win, Drawn- 0
Slovakia v Czech Republic; Venue: Narodny Futbalovy Stadion, Bratislava
Another reunion from the last edition of the Nations League as neighbours Slovakia host the Czech Republic in a local derby on Friday. The Czechs won both the encounters in the last edition and would like to continue that winning habit against Pavel Hapal's side. Despite the Czechs having an upper hand going into this latest clash, it is expected to be very competitive and ill-tempered on the night.
Head to Head: Slovakia- 3 wins, Czech Republic- 7 wins, Drawn- 2
League B: Group 3: Russia, Serbia, Turkey, and Hungary
Russia v Serbia; Venue: Dynamo Central Stadium, Moscow
Russia's love affair with football set to continue as Stanislav Cherchesov's side face a physical Serbia in Moscow. Serbia, having promoted from league C in the last edition, would like to use this match and the home clash against Turkey to prepare for the delayed Euro 2020 semifinal playoff against Norway in October. Given Russia's good form since the 2018 world cup and a fine overall record over the Serbians, Mladen Krstajic's side has its task cut out in the new Nations League edition.
Head to Head: Russia- 4 wins, Serbia- 1 win, Drawn- 6
Turkey v Hungary; Venue: Yeni 4 Eylul Stadyumu, Sivas
Turkey hosts Hungary on Thursday in Sivas hoping to start well in the 2020-21 Nations League. Traditionally, the Turks have been a formidable force at home with passionate home support but due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the home side would be devoid of its 12th man in an otherwise highly charged encounter with the Hungarians. The Magyars got promoted to league B after an impressive 2018-19 campaign under Marco Rossi.
Head to Head: Turkey- 4 wins, Hungary- 6 wins, Drawn- 2
League B: Group 4: Wales, Finland, Republic of Ireland and Bulgaria
Bulgaria v Republic of Ireland; Venue: Vasil Levski Natsionalen Stadion, Sofia
Bulgaria, promoted from league C, face the Republic of Ireland in Stephen Kenny's first match as the Boys in Green manager. Georgi Dremendzhiev has a lot to do to take Bulgaria in the upper echelons of European football once again but the doubleheader against Ireland and Wales would be the ideal platform to build for the future.
The Republic has one eye on October's Euro 2020 playoff semi-final against Slovakia in Bratislava as Stephen Kenny's reign starts with a long trip to Sofia after a long wait since the stepping down of his predecessor Mick Mcarthy.
Head to Head: Bulgaria- 3 wins, Rep. of Ireland- 4 wins, Drawn- 4
Finland v Wales; Venue: Helsingin Olympiastadion, Helsinki
This will be a contest between two equal and confident sides after qualifying for Euro 2020. Finland, under Markku Kanerva, has created history by becoming the first side in the country's history to qualify for a major tournament. Although participation in Euro 2020 has been delayed due to Covid-19, the Scandinavians have been consistent with their performances over the last couple of years.
Ryan Giggs' Wales has no playoff match to be concerned of in October and the former Manchester United midfielder has already decided to use the Nations League as the perfect platform to continue with the development and get promoted to League A in the next edition. All eyes will be on Real Madrid outcast Gareth Bale as he is set to play a significant part in Helsinki.
Head to Head: Finland- 4 wins, Wales- 4 wins, Drawn- 4
Featured image credits: AGONAsport.com