UEFA Euro 2017 Qualifier - England - Estonia Preview: Can the Lionesses top Group 7?

England will be looking to continue their 100% qualification campaign in their penultimate Euro 2017 qualifier against Estonia.

UEFA Euro 2017 Qualifier - England - Estonia Preview: Can the Lionesses top Group 7?
Photo: VAVEL UK | Jonny Walsh

England meet Estonia on Thursday at Meadow Lane in the final qualifiers ahead of the UEFA Women's European Championships next year in the Netherlands and they will be looking to obtain a 100% record coming out of their final round of fixtures.

The Lionesses may have already made it to next summer's Euro 2017 tournament, sealing qualification with a 7-0 win in Serbia in June, but Mark Sampson will be hoping his team can lay down a marker for the finals by securing back-to-back victories in this week's qualifying double-header.

Jill Scott celebrates her late equaliser against Belgium | Photo: Nigel Roddis- The FA / Getty Images
Jill Scott celebrates her late equaliser against Belgium | Photo: Nigel Roddis- The FA / Getty Images

The Lionesses are currently top of the Group - sitting two points clear of second-place Belgium - who they face on Tuesday in Leuvan in a match which should determine the winners of Group 7.

Estonia currently sit at the bottom of the group with zero points on the board and speaking about the upcoming matches, Alex Scott told Sky Sports News HQ that "England have to be ruthless".

"In the Euros we're going to be coming up against such a dichotomy of different styles, our mentality is we have to go into these games and we have to be ruthless," said the Arsenal Ladies captain.

Head-to-head

The last fixture between the two sides was the first time England had featured since the World Cup and they certainly kicked off their European Championship qualifying campaign in style.

Mark Sampson's side opened with a comprehensive first Euro qualifier against Estonia last September, gaining an 8-0 victory over their lowly-ranked opponents.

Dan Carter marked her senior international debut with a hat-trick and fellow debutant Issy Christansen struck a stunning 20-yard volley as England began to sustain their success after winning the bronze medal at the 2015 Women's World Cup.

Team news

With injuries clouding Mark Sampson's selection for this month's round of qualifiers, it has allowed the manager to bring different players in to the fray.

Chelsea's Millie Bright is handed her senior call-up after impressing for the Women's Super League 1 champions over the last few seasons. The 23-year-old has trained with the seniors at St Georges Park on a number of occasions and was always expected to make the jump in to the senior squad.

Claire Rafferty and Dan Carter have both been recalled into Sampson's 23-player squad. Rafferty last featured in the 0-0 draw with France back in March, while Carter returns for her second cap after slotting home a hat-trick on her debut in September.

Issy Christiansen celebrates after scoring the fifth goal against Serbia | Photo: Getty Images
Issy Christiansen celebrates after scoring the fifth goal against Serbia | Photo: Getty Images

Strikers Ellen White, Fran Kirby and Jodie Taylor are all unable to be selected due to injury. This allows the likes of Rachel Daly, who plays her football for Houston Dash in the NWSL and Manchester City's Nikita Parris to gain their second senior call-up's and the chance to bid for a spot at next summer's tournament in the Netherlands.

Managers thoughts

Mark Sampson has urged his players to secure victories against Estonia and Belgium in order to set a benchmark going into the Euro's.

"It's important we finish the campaign with quality and get two positive results. If we end this campaign with two victories it means that over the course of two years of qualifying campaigns, this team have conceded hardly any goals, scored lots of them and we would have only dropped two points," expressed the England manager.