Ukraine will be looking to show some improvement after an unconvincing victory over Cyprus as they plan to use the game as a perfect test for the Euro 2016 clash with Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, Wales produced a very good performance despite failing to defeat their neighbours, although Chris Coleman’s under-strength side face a tough task in Kiev.
After they narrowly missed out on a place at the 2014 World Cup, losing the play-off to France, Ukraine returned stronger and ensured they qualified for the Euro 2016. In spite of some very good showings, Zbirna couldn’t win one of the top two places in the group and again had to take part in the play-offs, but a 3-1 aggregate win over Slovenia proved enough for the Eastern European side to book their ticket to France. Ukraine faced Cyprus at home in their first warm-up game for the tournament finals, and while Mikhail Fomenko’s charges did not impress, they did well to record another triumph without conceding, something that has become their signature move of late. Chances are the players will have greater motivation when they face in-form Wales side and we fully expect them to raise their performance in Kiev. Coach Mikhail Fomenko was delighted to welcome back Roman Zozulya from a lengthy injury lay-off, although key winger Yevhen Konoplyanka misses the March friendlies through injury.
Yaroslav Rakitskiy missed the Cyprus game through illness, but he is expected to take his place in the heart of defence for the Wales clash.
Andriy Pyatov should be recalled to the side, whereas Ivan Petryak and Sergiy Sydorchuk are both pushing for starting places.
Considering the small pool of quality players manager Chris Coleman has at his disposal, Wales’ first ever qualification to the European Championships has got to be considered a major achievement, and while the team obviously have nothing to lose in France, there are some reasons for concern. The Dragons were pretty fortunate to have most key men available throughout the qualifying campaign as they are clearly a different team without the likes of Bale, Ramsey and Robson-Kanu, as witnessed by the 1-1 draw with Northern Ireland, where they avoided defeat by scoring a late penalty. Everyone can see that Chris Coleman does not have proper replacements for his starting 11, with only few more players capable of performing at this level. Considering that the under-strength team experienced all sorts of problems against less than impressive Northern Ireland, it is not realistic to expect they can upset a side like Ukraine away from home. The Dragons failed to score a single goal in last three high-profile games on the road (Netherlands, Belgium, Bosnia), and the trend looks likely to continue in Kiev.
Gareth Bale was allowed to miss the March friendlies, while Aaron Ramsey, Andy King, Paul Dummet, David Edwards and James Collins are out injured.
Neil Taylor is expected to return after he was rested against Northern Ireland, but Hal Robson-Kanu remains a major doubt.
Key Factors to Consider
- The only two meetings between the sides ended in 1-1 draws
- Ukraine won four of last five home fixtures
- Ukraine conceded just 5 goals in last 18 home games
- Wales without key men Bale, Ramsey and Robson-Kanu
- The Dragons only beat Andorra in last five matches
Ukraine may not have impressed against Cyprus, but they have been a real force to be reckoned with at home, conceding mere five goals in last 18. Wales, on the other hand, have struggled of late and with three key men missing, we cannot see them getting anything from this match.
Verdict: Home win
Best Odds: 8/11