Ryan Giggs men travel to Bratislava to face Slovakia in what seems like a must not lose match for the Welsh. They currently sit fourth in the group, three points behind both Hungary and Slovakia but with a game in hand on both. With a home tie against Croatia coming up on Sunday, they’ll be looking to get out of this one unscathed.
It’s been a very indifferent qualification process for the Welsh so far, with defeats away to Croatia & Hungary costing them dearly. Giggs and his side would 100% take a point on this one, if they were to get all 3, then their qualification chances would be greatly improved.
This group is looking like one of the more nicely poised with the business end of qualification coming right up. No team has run away with it like you see in other groups such as England, Spain, Belgium & Italy, however Croatia are clear favourites in this group and both these teams will be vying for that second qualifying spot.
These two teams have already met this qualifying as Wales came out on top with a 1-0 dominant victory in the first matchday in Cardiff. However, a lot seems to have changed since then for Wales and their fortune has definitely taken a turn for the worst following losses to Hungary & Croatia in June. The Welsh did bounce back by scraping a late winner against Azerbaijan, but worrying for them, they looked far from convincing in what should have been a simple 3 points.
Slovakia on the other hand have been very hit and miss so far this qualifying campaign, with two impressive victories over Hungary cementing their intent for qualification. However, they too felt the wrath of the Croatians, being put to the sword in a 4-0 defeat just last month and not forgetting the 1-0 loss they had away to Wales.
The Slovakians come into this one, with no immediate injury worries. Captain and star player Marek Hamsik is fully fit and expected to play a pivotal role in his sides chances on Thursday. They aren’t blessed with talent across the board, however with the likes of Martin Dubravka and Milan Skriniar in defence, they are fairly resolute.
Alongside Marek Hamsik, you’ve also got the exciting Stanislas Lobotka & Robert Mak, who will both cause a lot of problems going forward for the Welsh.
The massive question on any Welsh fans lips is whether or not Juventus midfield Aaron Ramsey will be fit to play against both Slovakia & Croatia. The former Arsenal man is a pivotal player in Ryan Giggs side and the void he leaves is more than visible. The talents of him coupled up with the ever-mercurial Gareth Bales and very impressive Daniel James will cause Slovakia a lot of problems. One man who’s gone under the radar for Wales is allegiance-pledged Kieffer Moore, the Wigan striker has impressed in the last 18 months and as a hold up option, the pacey front 3 sitting behind him should benefit from his influence up top.
The only serious injury is that of Chris Mepham who has pulled out of the squad, the gap he leaves in defence is a massive conundrum for Giggs. With Ashley Williams returning to the squad, he has the credentials to replace the Bournemouth defender, but it’s no doubt Mepham will be sorely missed.
As I’ve said previously, this really is a must not lose for the Welsh and I think Ryan Giggs will set up with this in mind. Keeping it tight at the back and using their very fast and creative attack on the counter, to hopefully hurt the Slovakians. For that reason, I’m happy to get behind Wales Draw No Bet @ 2.20. They certainly have the weapons to hurt this Slovakian team, it’s just whether their defence can stay stable and strong throughout the match.
I was also looking at the goal scorer markets and thought the price on Dan James @ 4.50 to score anytime looks incredible. The Manchester United man has been one of the only shining lights in the United team and he seems to show his class when donning the red of Wales, most recently scoring the winner against Slovakia in the first matchday.