Five WSL players to watch out for during the international break

Love it or hate it, the international break has popped up once again in the world of women’s football. The domestic calendar has been suspended for the second time in 2024, as the European nations turn their focus to qualifying for EURO2025.

England will host Sweden at Wembley on Friday, before heading to Dublin’s Aviva Stadium to face the Republic on Ireland on Tuesday. FromTheSpot will have detailed coverage of both matches – but first, let’s take a look at five stars from the Barclays Women’s Super League to keep an eye on.

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Anna Patten

Republic of Ireland: v FRA, v ENG

Perhaps one of the more obvious contenders for a spot on this list, Anna Patten is expected to make her debut for the Republic of Ireland over the course of the weekend. Uncapped by England at a senior level, the defender made the switch to the Girls in Green and received international clearance earlier this week.

The 24-year-old came through the Arsenal Academy as a child, going on to make her debut for the club against Bayern Munich in the 2016/17 UEFA Women’s Champions League. Having spent last season on loan at Aston Villa, she made the move permanent ahead of the 2023/24 campaign.

Speaking ahead of Aston Villa’s WSL match against Leicester City, head coach Carla Ward told reporters that ‘Ireland are getting a top, top player – but a top, top person as well.’

Able to play for the Republic of Ireland through her grandparents, Patten could debut for Eileen Gleeson’s side against France in Metz on Friday. The Girls in Green will then face England at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Tuesday.

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Leila Ouahabi

Catalunya: v PAR

Manchester City revealed on Monday evening that Leila Ouahabi has been called up by Xavi Llorens ahead of Catalunya’s first match since a penalty victory over Chile in January 2019.

Les Segadores are not affiliated with FIFA or UEFA, and thus cannot play a competitive fixture nor attempt to qualify for EURO2025. There will be nothing but pride on the line when they welcome Paraguay to the small town of Palamós on Sunday.

Ouahabi has already been capped thrice for Catalunya, and also boasts a plethora of international experience with Spain though, having played 49 times for la Roja. The 31-year-old is not the only high-profile player to turn out for les Segadores over the years though, with the likes of Aitana Bonmatí and Alexia Putellas also having donned a Catalan strip in the past.

Xavi Llorens, who previously managed Barcelona Femení, will announce his full squad at 11am BST on Wednesday. Ouahabi may not be the only star to keep an eye out for, with a number of current Barcelona players also expected to be called up to represent Catalunya.

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Aurora Galli

Italy: v NED, v FIN

Aurora Galli is one of just two Italians plying their trade in the Barclays Women’s Super League, alongside her Everton teammate Martina Piemonte. Both are truly fascinating to watch and serve as great examples of the leaps being made in Italian football over recent years – but it’s Galli that gets the nod here.

Best utilised in the heart of the midfield, an injury crisis on Merseyside has seen the 27-year-old resigned to filling a void on the right side of Brian Sørensen’s defence. In fairness, she’s coped adequately, but the upcoming international break should grant her a chance to show the world what she’s capable of in her natural position.

The upcoming matches will certainly be interesting for Galli. Italy suffered a group stage elimination from the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, but they went on to beat the winners of the tournament less than four months later.

An in-form Italy side has the potential to be one of the best in Europe, and if Galli can get the midfield ticking on Friday, they may just be able to stun the Dutch in Cosenza.

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Jess Park

England: v SWE, v IRL

Manchester City’s Jess Park has written her name in lights over the last few weeks, and has created a selection dilemma for Sarina Wiegman ahead of England’s qualifiers against Sweden and the Republic of Ireland.

The 22-year-old cut through Manchester United’s defence like a hot knife through butter when the two sides met at Etihad Stadium less than two weeks ago, bagging two first-half goals before teeing up Khadija Shaw for City’s third of the afternoon.

Park is by no means a one-game wonder though, and it is her remarkable consistency that has earned her a space in the Lionesses squad. She came on as a substitute in both of England’s February fixtures, replacing Tottenham’s Grace Clinton, and it’s fair to say that the pair are likely in direct competition for a starting berth this weekend.

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Jutta Rantala

Finland: v NOR, v ITA

Leicester City’s Jutta Rantala has been quietly tearing it up in the Barclays Women’s Super League this season. The Foxes sit in the bottom half of the table, having lost half of their 18 fixtures so far – but they’d be considerably worse off without the talismanic Finn’s goal contributions.

Six goals and a further four assists are certainly not numbers to be sniffed at, given that those figures represent involvement in more than a third of Leicester’s goals this season.

It hasn’t been an easy campaign for the club, not least with the recent sacking of Willie Kirk for disciplinary reasons – but Rantala has taken to the WSL like a duck to water, and she’ll be looking to add to her five goals for Finland as the Helmarit take on Norway and Italy over the course of the next week.