Keira Walsh focuses on England amid Barcelona transfer speculation

Keira Walsh focuses on England amid Barcelona transfer speculation

Keira Walsh sidestepped questions about her club future as she prepares to win a 50th senior England cap against Luxembourg in front of a sell-out crowd at Stoke on Tuesday night.

The Manchester City midfielder has been the subject of an intense pursuit by Barcelona this summer and, addressing the media at St George’s Park, did little to quash suggestions that she could spend the coming season in Spain.

“My focus is on England right now,” was all Walsh would say on the matter as she looked forward to the Lionesses’ first match on home soil since winning Euro 2022 at Wembley in July.

With Sarina Wiegman’s side having already qualified for next summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand thanks to Saturday’s 2-0 win in Austria, the result of Tuesday’s concluding qualifier is academic but it would be a major shock if the Lionesses were to lose for the first time on Wiegman’s watch.

The ruthless efficiency which has seen England win all of their nine World Cup qualifying Group D games to date, scoring 70 goals and conceding none, has been mirrored by Walsh’s own personal performances and she believes Wiegman should take the credit. “I’ve found a bit of consistency under Sarina,” said the 25-year-old. “I probably struggled with that a little bit before she came in.

“She’s given me the confidence to go and play my game. I think it’s just about carrying on this consistency and the form I found at the Euros now.”

Wiegman resisted rotating her first XI during Euro 2022 but, well aware of the perils of potential burnout, is likely to make some alterations against a Luxembourg side ranked 117th in the world and beaten 10-0 by England last September.

“You might expect some changes,” said England’s manager. “But 30,000 people are coming to watch us so we really want to show again our [best] game and make a little celebration.

“I expect again a very energetic team that really wants to score lots of goals and – of course – concede none. We want to be in possession as much as possible because Luxembourg’s level compared to ours, there’s a big difference, so we should show that. We want to get a good win.”

England registered their record competitive victory – 20-0 – against Latvia last November and Wiegman admitted to harbouring slightly mixed feelings about such one-sided outcomes in the currently still imbalanced international women’s football sphere.

“I think sometimes a bigger score is OK, but when that’s all the time, you must question yourself: ‘Is that good for the team that loses that much, and for the team that wins that much?’” she said. “And if it’s not an exception but more a rule then you might want to make some changes [to the format of qualifying competitions] for the benefit of the game in both countries. That discussion’s been going on for a while with Fifa and Uefa, so we’ll see where it brings us.”