Lucy Bronze back and eager for first real test of Sarina Wiegman’s England | England women’s football team

The worst of Storm Dudley should have passed over Teesside by the time England kick off against Canada on Thursday night but Sarina Wiegman’s players must remain braced for a potentially hurricane‑force challenge.

After scoring 53 goals – including 20 in one game against Latvia alone – during six successive wins against modest opposition since Wiegman took charge last September, the Lionesses face their first real test at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium.

An Olympic gold medal-winning Canada, managed by Bev Priestman – previously England’s No2 under Phil Neville – represent the first of three tough games in the inaugural Arnold Clark Cup.

Played across six days in a round-robin format as Wiegman’s squad prepare to host the European Championship this summer, the tournament also features a Germany side ranked third in the world (England stand eighth) and a Spain team heavily staffed by key components of Barcelona’s Champions League‑winning XI.

The good news for Wiegman is that she is able to work with arguably her best player for the first time since swapping coaching the Netherlands for England. Lucy Bronze is ready to start against Canada after missing the first half of this season because of knee surgery.

“My match fitness and my performances are coming back so hopefully I can get back to the very top of my game in the next months,” said the Manchester City right-back, speaking from England’s borrowed base at Middlesbrough’s Rockliffe Park training ground near Darlington. “This is the first time we’ve played high-ranked opposition with Sarina as our manager and our new way of playing, so it’s a good test.”

Bronze is determined to make up for lost time after a “frustrating” few months spent recovering from the fifth knee operation of her career. By way of complication, this latest problem was so rare her surgeon had performed the procedure only twice before.

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“I played a whole year injured and wasn’t at my best, before the surgery so it’s nice to be back,” the Northumberland-born former Sunderland and Lyon full-back said. “And it’s also nice to be back in the north east – even if it’s colder than Manchester.”

The 30-year-old is enjoying her crash course in Wiegman’s tactical thought process. “I’ve missed the last three camps so we’re playing catchup; I’m trying to get to know her quite quickly,” Bronze said. “But the team’s playing with a lot of energy – we want to win the ball back quickly and score a lot of goals.”

Arsenal’s Leah Williamson will continue as captain in Steph Houghton’s absence.

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