England Women's best XI? Lianne Sanderson and Sue Smith pick their best line-ups

Stick with experience? Blood some youth? Change the system? We analyse the options facing Hege Riise's first England team selection ahead of Tuesday night's friendly against Northern Ireland

Steph Houghton (L) and Lucy Bronze (R) helped the Lionesses reach the semi-finals of the 2019 Women's World Cup
Image: Steph Houghton and Lucy Bronze are two certainties, but who else will line up alongside them

It's been almost a year since England last played a competitive game and a lot has changed since then.

Almost all of England's backroom staff have left, with head coach Phil Neville now at Inter Miami in MLS and Bev Priestman in charge of rivals Canada.

Sarina Wiegman takes over in the autumn, which means Hege Riise will pick the England side for their friendly against Northern Ireland. What will that eleven be, though? We've asked former England internationals Lianne Sanderson and Sue Smith to pick their best line-ups from the squad selected.

Sanderson: (4-4-2 diamond): Roebuck; Bronze, Houghton, Williamson, Greenwood; Walsh; Scott, Nobbs; Kelly; White, England.

Smith: (4-3-3): Roebuck; Bronze, Houghton, Williamson, Greenwood; Walsh, Scott, Stanway, Kelly, White, Hemp.

Everton Ladies goalkeeper Sandy MacIver during the FA WSL soccer match between Everton Ladies and Manchester City Women at Walton Hall Park Stadium, Liverpool, England, Sunday Dec. 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Image: Everton 'keeper Sandy MacIver is hoping to make her debut

Goalkeeper: Sanderson and Smith: Roebuck

Sanderson: I'd have to go for Ellie Roebuck. She's got more experience of the goalkeepers out of the three. These types of games will build up her international experience, which will be crucial.

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Smith: Ellie has been there before. She's very commanding, she's very agile, some of the saves she's pulled off this season have been excellent, but trying to get inside Hege Riise's head is a difficult one.

England Women captain Steph Houghton
Image: Steph Houghton will have a new centre-back partner after an injury to Millie Bright

Defenders: Sanderson and Smith agree on the Back Four

Smith: You would presume it would be Steph Houghton and Millie Bright if Bright was fit. I'd like to see Leah Williamson come in there, she's very good as a defender and very good with the ball. I'd go with Leah but Lotte Wubben-Moy is playing well.

Sanderson: Leah's been a team-mate of mine, she's very versatile and she's still so young and yet so commanding. Because she's so comfortable on the ball she is often asked to play in other positions, but I'd like to see her next to Steph for England.

Smith: Millie went through a patch where she wasn't at her best and received criticism and has come back stronger. I hated playing against her, she's so strong one-on-one. She's in the form of her life, it's a shame she's injured.

Jill Scott Scott made her senior Lionesses debut against Holland in 2006.
Image: Jill Scott will make her 150th appearance for England

Midfielders: Sanderson wants a diamond, Smith's a fan of a three

Sanderson: I would go for a diamond midfield. Keira Walsh would protect, Jill Scott has to start and captain on her 150th appearance and I would have Jordan Nobbs next to her.

I want to see a No 10 and I'd love Chloe Kelly to be in that position. She'll play in that dangerous role picking up the ball, driving at players and playing those through-balls. England have got so many good players, I'd like to see as many of them play at the same time.

Smith: I have to go with Jill Scott, I want her to get her 150th cap and not because she's a good mate. She's still got it even if she's coming to the end of her career. You forget how good she is technically, too.

I'd have Keira Walsh to protect the back four and I've got to go with Georgia Stanway. I know what she's capable of and I know she can unlock defences. Is Hege Riise going to tweak the system? She said it would be similar to Phil but we'll see.

The midfield is a position under threat from others going to the Olympics. Ignore players saying they take one game at a time, they'll have the Olympics in their mind. When you have players as good as Kim Little, Caroline Weir (both Scotland) and Sophie Ingle (Wales) competing for that slot it will create competition.

PA - Manchester City striker Ellen White in action in the WSL
Image: WSL's all-time leading scorer Ellen White is facing competition from Beth England and Ebony Salmon

Forwards: Sanderson goes two up-top, Smith wants an all Man City three

Sanderson: Ebony Salmon will be great to come off the bench and deserves it. If Fran Kirby was fit I'd put her up there with Beth England but when you have centre forwards like we do with England - be it Fran, Beth or the excellent Ellen White - I just believe in playing them at the same time.

Smith: I'd go for the Manchester City forward line. They've played so well together this season and have such momentum. Chloe Kelly has been the standout for me, even when comparing her to the big names at Man City. Ellen White is still at the top of her game and Lauren Hemp is back and will cause problems.

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