The Euro 2020 qualifiers return this weekend after the summer break. There have been four rounds of matches so far which have led to England, Spain, France, Belgium and Italy producing winning starts to top their respective groups. However, things haven’t gone quite so well for other contenders like Portugal, Croatia and the Netherlands, and it looks like there will be some hugely important matches in rounds five and six.
The fifth round of the Euro 2020 qualifiers kick off of Thursday night and carry on through to Saturday. After this, the matchday six games will follow on Sunday through to Tuesday evening.
England will be hoping to consolidate their strong run of form with victories over Bulgaria and Kosovo, while Northern Ireland face a tough challenge to their 100% record by entertaining Germany.
Both Scotland and Wales will need wins if they have any hope of making it through to the Euro 2020 finals. Plus there are very important football matches for Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. Here is a quick look at some of the most potentially significant matches of these two rounds.
Euro 2020 qualifiers – Matchday five
Ireland vs Switzerland – Thursday 5 September 7.45pm
The Republic of Ireland have found themselves at the top of Group D after four rounds of qualifiers. Their wins over Gibraltar and Georgia might not have been too surprising, but Mick McCarthy’s team managed to get a credible 1-1 draw away at Denmark in June.
With ten points from four games, Ireland are now five points ahead of their nearest rivals. But both Denmark and Switzerland have more games in hand in Group D, and Switzerland could be Ireland’s toughest task yet.
Ireland face a few squad issues with the likes of James McCarthy, Sean Maguire and Matt Doherty being ruled out by injury. Switzerland have managed a win over Georgia, and they somehow threw away a three-goal advantage in their 3-3 home draw with Denmark. But any team with the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, Granit Xhaka and Fabian Schar in the line-up won’t make things easy for Ireland.
Romania vs Spain – Thursday 5 September 7.45pm
Spain have bounced back from their disappointing 2018 World Cup with a perfect start in the 2020 Euro qualifiers. Their fourth straight win was sealed with an excellent 3-0 home win over Sweden, although the match against Romania could be trickier.
Romania are just one point behind Spain in Group F, although two of their victories came against lowly ranked sides like Malta and Faroe Islands. Interestingly, Spain haven’t beaten Romania since way back in 1996. But with Alvaro Morata and Sergio Ramos in great goalscoring form for their country, we should expect Robert Moreno’s team to pick up three points here.
Scotland vs Russia – Friday 6 September 7.45pm
Scotland have suffered another mediocre start in Group I with that shocking 3-0 away defeat by Kazakhstan overshadowing their Euro 2020 campaign. Manager Alex McLeish was swiftly sacked following a disappointing 2-0 win over San Marino, and things haven’t gone too much better under new boss Steve Clarke.
They only managed 2-1 win against Cyprus thanks to a late winner from Oliver Burke, and the 3-0 demolition by Belgium proved how much work Clarke needs to do. It looks like he will have to do without Grant Hanley and Liam Palmer in the centre of defence, while there will be call-ups for David Bates and Mikey Devlin.
Russia always present a formidable and spirited challenge. The team have already put nine past San Marino in their Euro 2020 qualifiers, and with the likes of Artem Dzyuba looking hungry for more goals, it could be a difficult night at Hampden Park.
Wales vs Azerbaijan – Friday 6 September 7.45pm
Ryan Giggs will know that his team will have to get a result on Friday night if Wales have any hope of proceeding through the Euro 2020 qualifiers. Wales are currently fourth in Group E after defeats by Croatia and Hungary in June.
Unfortunately, the Wales team will have to do without the experience of Aaron Ramsey and Ashley Williams. There will be call-ups for the likes of youngsters such as Dylan Levitt. Thankfully, Gareth Bale scored a couple of goals for Real Madrid last weekend, and he’ll be desperate to strike for his team against bottom-placed Azerbaijan who have conceded 10 goals in their three Group E games.
Slovakia vs Croatia – Friday 6 September 7.45pm
After their impressive showing in the 2018 World Cup, Croatia have found it less straightforward in their Euro 2020 qualifiers. Their 2-1 away defeat by Hungary left Zlatko Dalic’s team in third place in Group E, but they should leapfrog Slovakia by getting an away win on Friday.
Croatia have usually had the upper hand in past encounters between these two teams. Plus with Luka Modric back to his best, it should signal the return for Croatia’s winning ways.
Germany vs The Netherlands – Friday 6 September 7.45pm
This is by far the biggest game of matchday five. Germany have three wins out of three which included a thrilling 2-3 away win over the Netherlands. The Dutch team are also looking strong as was seen in their 3-1 Nations League victory over England.
Germany will be hoping to make amends for their shocking performance in the 2018 World Cup. They recently posted an excellent 8-0 win over Estonia in June with the likes of Marco Reus, Leroy Sane and Timo Werner all scoring.
But the Netherlands will clearly take some beating. Not only does the Dutch defence include the world-class likes of Virgil Van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt, but with outrageously talented youngsters like Frenkie de Jong in midfield, it’s shaping up to be a fascinating match.
England vs Bulgaria – Saturday 7 September 5pm
Gareth Southgate’s team made a strong start to their Euro 2020 campaign with solid if unsurprising victories over the Czech Republic and Montenegro. The fact that England scored five goals in each match will have provided plenty of confidence. But the team’s embarrassing Nations League performance against the Netherlands will be a cause for concern.
Southgate’s squad selection has proven to be interesting with the likes of Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Tyrone Mings coming in at the expense of Kyle Walker. There are also chances to shine for talented youngsters like Chelsea’s Mason Mount and Leicester’s James Maddison.
Maddison has been in great form for Leicester this season, and with the recall of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, it’s going to be interesting to see who Southgate includes in his starting eleven. There’s plenty of hope for Jadon Sancho to make an appearance as the 19-year old has been in outrageous form for Borussia Dortmund recently.
Bulgaria are currently sat joint-bottom of Group A with a couple of draws against Montenegro and Kosovo to their name. Although strikers like Cagliari’s Kiril Despodov could cause a few issues, this match should be a good chance for England to get back to their winning ways.
Serbia vs Portugal – Saturday 7 September 7.45pm
Portugal defied expectations when they won the Euro 2016 tournament, but they haven’t found things so easy this time around. With uninspired draws against the likes of Ukraine and Serbia, Fernando Santos’ team have found themselves second-bottom of the Group B table.
However, their Nations League triumph will give Portugal some room for optimism. Cristiano Ronaldo has been making his magic work again with Juventus, and Joao Felix is also proving to be capable of creating something out of nothing. But with Serbia always proving to be a difficult team to beat, it could be yet another tricky game for Fernando Santos’ side.
France vs Albania – Saturday 7 September 7.45pm
The World Champions should easily beat Albania on Saturday. But as Didier Deschamps’ team are joint-level with Iceland and Turkey at the top of Group H, they might feel the pressure.
Their shock 2-0 away defeat by Turkey in June was the first time that France failed to have a shock on target in 10 years. But any team boasting the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba is going to take some beating on home soil, and it should be a comfortable evening for Les Bleus.
Euro 2020 qualifiers – Matchday six
Sweden vs Norway – Sunday 8 September 7.45pm
The battle between these two Scandinavian teams always makes for good viewing. This was especially true the last time that Sweden and Norway met where a 3-3 result came about through Sweden’s Ola Kamara scoring the equaliser in the sixth minute of injury time.
Both teams are sat in the middle of the Group F table behind Spain and Romania. Although Sweden have a two point advantage over Norway, this is such an emotive match that anything could happen.
Finland vs Italy – Sunday 8 September 7.45pm
Italy’s no-show at the 2018 World Cup was a shocking moment, but it looks like Roberto Mancini’s team have bounced back in style. They have got 12 points from four games so far, and they face Armenia for their fifth Euro 2020 qualifier on Thursday night.
But it’s their away match against Finland on Sunday evening that could be Italy’s toughest challenge so far. Although Italy managed to beat Finland 2-0 at home in March thanks to goals from Moise Kean and Nicolo Barella, this was the only defeat that Finland have suffered so far. Plus with Teemu Pukki on great goalscoring form for Norwich City in the Premier League, it could be the match that settles the battle for Group J.
Northern Ireland vs Germany – Monday 9 September 7.45pm
Northern Ireland have made an explosive start to their Euro 2020 campaign with four wins out of four. These have been against lowly ranked sides like Estonia and Belarus, and Michael O’Neill’s team will need to step things up a notch when they entertain Germany on Monday evening.
There are fears that Northern Ireland might have to do without Jordan Jones as the winger was injury in the Old Firm derby over the weekend. Plus it looks like Liam Boyce could miss this pivotal match as the striker suffered a hamstring injury on Saturday.
Northern Ireland will have a friendly against Luxembourg on Thursday evening that could give them chance to bring the likes of Liam Donnelly back in the side. But with none of the Northern Ireland goalkeepers getting a first-choice slot at their clubs this season, it seems that Michael O’Neill’s team could have a difficult time on Monday evening.
Scotland vs Belgium – Monday 9 September 7.45pm
If Scotland manage to survive their game against Russia, then they will have to keep improving to not get blown away by Belgium. With four wins out of four, Belgium are looking unstoppable at the top of the Group I table.
Belgium comfortably beat Scotland 3-0 in June thanks to goals from Romelu Lukaku and Kevin de Bruyne. Although Hampden Park always serves up an intimidating atmosphere, it’s hard to see Scotland coming away from this encounter with a point.
England vs Kosovo – Tuesday 10 September 7.45pm
England’s match against Kosovo will take place at St Mary’s in Southampton. Although the match should be England’s for the taking, Kosovo could be the dark horses of Group A. They picked up two handy draws before getting an excellent 2-3 away result against Bulgaria thanks to goals from Milot Rashica, Vedat Muriqi and Elba Rashini.
However, England defence should be able to withstand any pressure, and it will be interesting to see if Kieran Trippier gets a starting spot after his omission from the Nations League squad. Plus the match against Kosovo should give Raheem Sterling a chance to add to the four goals that he’s already picked up from just two Euro 2020 matches.