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Previewing the first-ever UEFA Nations League for Leeds United

Leeds has four players that have been called up to their respective national teams

Wales v Macedonia - FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

The first edition of the UEFA Nations League comes during the first international break of the 2018/19 season. Apparently UEFA added this new tournament to eliminate “meaningless” friendly matches that took time away from the already-brutal regular season. This competition has an interesting format, being broken up into A, B, C and D Leagues, with each league having four different groups. The winners of each group will either be promoted or will advance to a semi-final round (Group A). The losers will be relegated to the league below them, and each member of each group will win a guaranteed monetary prize based on which league they are in. Here we will look at the Leeds players who were called up and their respective squads for the tournament. All Nations League matches will be broadcasted on ESPN+.

Ezgjan Alioski - Macedonia

Macedonia enters the Nations League in League D, and they are the second highest rated team in the league based on UEFA’s ranking coefficient, after Azerbaijan. They join Armenia, Lichtenstein, and Gibraltar in Group 4, for what should be a straightforward attempt at promotion. The Armenians have Henrikh Mkhitaryan of Arsenal and Artur Sarkisov, a talented but old striker from the Russian League, but otherwise they should be an easy win for the Macedonians. Lichtenstein and Gibraltar have absolutely no one and should pose no threat to Alioski and company. Macedonia’s strength lies in their attack, where they have a talented trio of Serie A forwards in Goran Pandev, Aleksandar Trajkovski and Ilija Nestorovski. Alioski should have his normal left-mid position locked up for the first two games of the tournament, which are against Gibraltar on the 6th and against Armenia on the 9th.

Bailey Peacock-Farrell and Stuart Dallas - Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland was placed in League B, Group 3, alongside Bosnia and Herzegovina and Austria. Bosnia and Herzegovina will be led by their captain, AS Roma forward Edin Džeko, while Austria have a slew of talented Bundesliga players and West Ham United striker Marko Arnautović. Northern Ireland has an interesting squad that is comprised solely of players from the Scottish top flight, the EPL, The Championship, and League One. Because they are in a group of three, they will only have one Nations League match during the break, which is against Bosnia and Herzegovina on September 8th. Bailey Peacock-Farrell likely will not start in favor of Norwich City’s more experienced Michael McGovern, despite being on the same talent level. Stuart Dallas has started in the most recent friendlies, so he may earn a position in the starting eleven, but nothing is guaranteed. Northern Ireland will also play a friendly against Israel on September 11th, so both Leeds players should have another opportunity to get some playing time then. Northern Ireland is clearly the second-best team in the group, and can definitely maintain their position in Group B, though besting Austria will be a difficult feat. Northern Ireland vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina will be broadcast on SkySports in addition to ESPN+.

Pontus Jansson - Sweden

The star center back gets another call to Sweden in their first games since a rather successful World Cup. They join a talented Russian side that is coming off a great World Cup run where they reached the semi-finals, losing to Croatia. The third team in group their will be Turkey, also the lowest ranked country in League B. Sweden should have a solid chance to best Russia, and they will have no problems taking care of Turkey down the stretch. Jansson has consistently been a bench piece for Sweden and should continue this role for the upcoming game against Turkey on September 10th.