Lionesses squad: England captain Leah Williamson returns after injury for Austria and Italy friendlies

Back: Leah Williamson (PA)
Back: Leah Williamson (PA)

Lionesses captain Leah Williamson is set to make her England comeback next week after being recalled to the squad.

Williamson has not played for England in 10 months and missed the World Cup in the summer after suffering a serious knee injury last April, but is back in the squad for friendlies against Austria and Italy later in February.

Both matches will be taking place in Spain as Sarina Wiegman has elected to take the squad there for a warm-weather training camp. The Lionesses will face Austria next Friday before taking on Italy four days later, with both games being played at the Estadio Nuevo Mirador in Algeciras.

Williamson is back but England will have to cope without her centre-back partner, Millie Bright, who is out injured with a knee issue. There is no place for Tottenham striker Bethany England, but Manchester City midfielder Jess Park is back in the fold for the first time since October.

Williamson captained England as they won the Euros in 2022 and is expected to keep the armband, although Wiegman will discuss the matter with the squad when they meet up next week. In Williamson’s absence, Bright has skippered the side and so has goalkeeper Mary Earps

“I have to talk to the players first about that,” said Wiegman. “So we will come in and it’s also a new moment. We start again, we will probably revisit that and have the conversation first with the group.”

Bethany England misses out (The FA via Getty Images)
Bethany England misses out (The FA via Getty Images)

Williamson made her comeback for Arsenal last month when she came off the bench and setup a goal for Beth Mead during a 6-0 win over Reading in the Conti Cup. The centre-back has since started the last two games for Arsenal and was captain for their 1-0 defeat to Manchester City in the FA Cup on Sunday.

Williamson’s return is a big boost for England, who suffered heartbreak in the Nations League back in November. The Lionesses missed out on this month’s finals, and qualification for the Paris Olympics, on goal difference.

England’s defence struggled during their Nations League campaign and they conceded eight goals in six games as they finished second behind Holland in Group A1.

Wiegman, who last month signed a new contract that will run through to the 2027 World Cup, is now building towards next summer’s Euros - where the Lionesses will look to defend their crown.

The draw for qualifying is due to take place next month as 15 teams look to join hosts Switzerland at the tournament.

Wiegman said: “This camp is where the road to Euro 2025 in Switzerland begins. Playing against strong teams like Austria and Italy is just the preparation we need before we kick off our qualifying campaign in April. I am really looking forward to getting back on the grass with the squad.

“It is the first time we will be back together as a group since last year. Travelling away for this camp will give us a great opportunity to connect again on and off the pitch and allow us to give minutes to many players.

“Being in Spain with hopefully good weather and excellent facilities is the perfect setting for the work we need to do as a team to get us ready for another very important year ahead.”