Best Odds: 11/5
Bookmaker: William Hill
With the two sides likely to be involved in the battle for the automatic qualifying berth, there will be a lot riding on the outcome of the match in Wien. Both Austria and Wales have won their opening matches in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, and they will definitely want to continue the trend at Ernest Happel Stadion.
Austria have seriously raised their profile over the last few years, qualifying for the Euro 2016 finals in style, having dropped just two points in the group that contained the likes of Russia, Sweden and Montenegro, among other sides. Das Team arrived in France in excellent spirits, but ended up losing their opening fixture to Hungary, and ultimately failed to progress to the next stage despite producing very good performances against Portugal and Iceland. As expected, coach Marcel Koller kept his job and he didn’t make too many changes to the squad in the meantime, although Leicester City star Christian Fuchs has since retired from international duty. Austria surprisingly opted against staging friendly fixtures after the Euro 2016 finals, but that did not prove to be a problem as they went on to defeat Georgia on the road in the opening 2018 World Cup qualifier. Das Team now have a chance to cement the first position in the standings by defeating leaders Wales, but that will not be an easy task. It is important to note though that Austria have won their last four World Cup qualifiers on home soil, defeating Kazakhstan, Faroe Islands, Sweden and Republic of Ireland, conceding just one goal in the process.
Andreas Lukse, Stefan Stangl and Louis Schaub are the three uncapped players in the squad, whereas Hamburger SV starlet Michael Gregoritsch keeps his place.
Important midfielder Martin Harnik was forced to withdraw due to a calf injury, with Sturm Graz forward Deni Alar called as replacement.
Wales national team have just enjoyed the biggest success in their history, having reached the Euro 2016 semi-final, but they seem determined to keep the excellent run going. Even if the opposition was not exactly one of European powerhouses, the Dragons enjoyed a perfect start to the new qualifying campaign, hammering Moldova 4-0 in Cardiff, but chances are they will face a much tougher test against very good Austria side. Manager Chris Coleman, who has been linked with just about every vacant managerial position in English Premiership in the summer, has faced some selection problems in the aftermath of the Euro 2016 success, with star midfielder Aaron Ramsey yet to recover from a hamstring injury. However, the most important thing is that Real Madrid superstar Gareth Bale is not only fully fit, but also appear to be in very good form, while another key man Joe Allen has recovered from injury. This means that the Dragons have plenty of reason for optimism ahead of the trip to Wien, but it goes without saying that they will need to keep the rich vein of form if they want to avoid defeat in Austria and remain top of Group D.
Arsenal star Aaron Ramsey misses out through a hamstring problem, while Shaun MacDonald has been added to the squad and George Williams misses out.
Joe Allen proved his fitness at the weekend after recovering from a hamstring injury and he is expected to start against Austria.
Key Factors to Consider
- Austria are unbeaten in three home fixtures vs Wales (W2 D1)
- Wales recorded a 2-1 win last time the two sides met (2013 friendly)
- A total of 12 goals were scored in six meetings between Austria and Wales
- Austria won last four WC qualifiers on home soil
- Wales on three of last four competitive fixtures on the road
Both Austria and Wales have impressed of late and there is not too much separating the two sides at the moment. Considering that neither team will be prepared to risk too much due to the high stakes, we expect the game to end in stalemate.
Best Odds: 11/5
Bookmaker: William Hill