Middlesbrough midfielder excited to face Juventus star in UEFA Nations League

George Saville is relishing the chance to test himself against some of the world's best
George Saville is relishing the chance to test himself against some of the world's best

George Saville is relishing the opportunity to face Juventus midfielder Miralem Pjanic as his Northern Ireland side prepare for their UEFA Nations League opener.

Saville, whose move to the Riverside Stadium was confirmed last Friday, looks set to start for his nation in what is their first outing in the new-look tournament as Northern Ireland take on Bosnia and Herzegovina.

And the 25-year-old is likely to be tasked with stopping Juventus' Pjanic, who is arguably the star player in the Bosnian side.

But Saville, who made his international debut against Germany last year, isn't phased by the challenge of tackling one of the world's leading midfielders - and is instead excited at the prospect at doing battle with the Serie A winner.

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"We all play football to play against the best players in the world," he said, speaking to BBC Sport.

"Pjanic is a great player. I'm really looking forward to the challenge."

Saville could also be set to face Middlesbrough teammate Mo Besic, who forms part of the Bosnian side.

It could well be the first time the pair have met too, with the midfielder yet to meet his Teesside teammates after the late completion of the deal.

There won't be time for too much relationship-building, however, with Saville fully concentrating on helping his side to achieve success in UEFA's latest international competition.

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The Nations League, which is set to replace the majority of international friendlies, could also aid some smaller nations in qualifying for the 2020 European Championships.

It's a format which has been criticised in some parts, but for Saville it presents a fantastic opportunity for Northern Ireland.

"It's another route into getting into the Euros," he admitted.

"The focus is on qualifying through the group stages of the Euros but if that doesn't work out, there is a backdoor way of getting in so it can only be a plus for the smaller countries."

Northern Ireland welcome Bosnia and Herzegovina to Windsor Park on Saturday, September 8 in a 2pm kick-off.