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Arnold Clark Cup preview: Hosts England eye another trophy

England Women will be determined to defend their Arnold Clark Cup crown when they are again the hosts for the second staging of the tournament.

Last year the Lionesses came out on top in the inaugural four-team competition, which served as great preparation for the Euros, as Sarina Wiegman's team edged out Spain, Canada and Germany on home soil.

This time around the other three invited nations taking part are Belgium, Italy and South Korea.

The action begins at Stadium MK with a double-header on Thursday, when Italy face Belgium before England play South Korea later in the day.

The four countries play each other once in a simple round-robin format with three points up for grabs for a win, one point for a draw, and zero for a defeat.

England expected to dominate

After their brilliant European Championship triumph last summer, Wiegman's England - who are ranked fourth in the world - are 4/1 to win the Women's World Cup later this year, but they will be tested here, with South Korea 15th, Italy 17th and Belgium 20th in the FIFA Women's world rankings.

Even though they lifted the trophy 12 months ago, England did not have it all their own way.

They only won one match - a decisive third-game 3-1 success over Germany - with two draws against Canada (1-1) and the Spaniards (0-0) seeing them finish just ahead of Spain on goal difference.

This time around, confidence will be high that they can underline their position as one of the world's top sides and build on the momentum generated by last summer's memorable Euros triumph as they continue to prepare for this summer's World Cup.

In-form Lionesses should start well

WhatEngland Women v South Korea Women
WhereStadium MK, Milton Keynes
When19:45, Thursday 16th February 2023
How to watchITV4 & ITVX
OddsEngland Women 1/4, Draw 17/4, South Korea Women 9/1

England will expect to get off to a winning start when they take on South Korea and extend their proud unbeaten run under Wiegman in the process.

The Lionesses have yet to taste defeat since the Dutch coach took over in September 2021, winning 22 of their 26 games since then, drawing the other four and they are 1/4 in the Full Time Result market.

This is their first outing since November, when they were held 1-1 by Norway in a friendly, but it would be a big surprise if it's anything other than three points to the hosts to start the Arnold Clark Cup off.

South Korea do approach the opener in decent form themselves, having lost only one of their last eight internationals, while they are currently unbeaten in five matches.

South Korea are also preparing for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, which begins in July, after reaching the quarter-finals of last year's Asia Cup and they have never faced England in a competitive game.

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Italy and Belgium renew rivalry

WhatItaly Women v Belgium Women
WhereStadium MK, Milton Keynes
When16:45, Thursday 16th February 2023
How to watchITV4 & ITVX
OddsItaly Women 4/6, Draw 5/2, Belgium Women 16/5

Italy and Belgium kick the event off in Milton Keynes and both will be after a positive start as they look to challenge England for the overall tournament win.

These two were in the same group in last summer's Euros, with Belgium finishing second behind France, while the Italians were dumped out of the tournament early on as they only picked up one point and ended bottom of the section.

There wasn't too much to choose between them, though, in what turned out to be a decisive group clash in Manchester, as Belgium edged it 1-0.

And, with just three places separating them in the world rankings and Italy sitting just ahead in that regard despite their contrasting Euros' performances, this is set to be another tight game.

A draw, which was the outcome of three of the six matches in last year's Arnold Clark Cup, is available at a tempting 5/2 in Full Time Result.

Coventry and Bristol the other venues

Following the opening two fixtures on Thursday, England take on Italy at the Coventry Building Society Arena on Sunday 19th February at 15:15, before South Korea and Belgium go head-to-head at the same venue three hours later.

Then the competition comes to a close on Wednesday 22nd February at Ashton Gate in Bristol, when South Korea play Italy at 16:45 and England round things off against the Belgians at 19:45.

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