England v Japan: predicted Lionesses line-up and latest player photos as Sarina Wiegman makes six changes
After overcoming the world champions at Wembley last month, England face another tough test on the road to the 2023 World Cup.
If expectations were high after the Lionesses won their first ever major trophy this summer, the hopes of fans that Wiegman’s players could go one step further in Australia and New Zealand were only raised by England’s convincing victory over the United States - though their opponents’ subsequent defeats, completing their first run of three defeats since 1993, has somewhat devalued their achievement, since the side that lifted the last two World Cups are patently not at full strength.
On Friday, England have an opportunity to prove their mettle again as they come up against formidable opposition in the form of Japan, who were world champions in 2011 before knocking the Lionesses out of the 2015 semi-finals.
Since, the Nadeshiko have fallen to three defeats at the hands of England, but their squad - dubbed ‘technically unbelievable’ by Lioness midfielder Georgia Stanway - is packed with talent, several of whom are known to Wiegman’s players as Women’s Super League team-mates and opponents.
The Dutch coacb has a number of tricky absences to contend with, including Euro 2022 mainstay Lucy Bronze and in-form Arsenal midfielder Jordan Nobbs. As Wiegman slowly works her team into the best possible shape ahead of next year’s tournament, she has some huge decisions to make. With Alessia Russo returning to action after missing October’s friendlies, should she slot straight back into the side, or should Lauren James, who has been on fire for club Chelsea, be given a chance to claim the striker berth?
Here’s how we think England will line-up against Japan on Friday....