Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Prediction: Wales vs Slovakia

Verdict: Wales win and under 3.5 goals

Best Odds: 7/5

Bookmaker: Bet365

Wales begin their latest European Championship journey with a maiden qualifier against Slovakia at the Cardiff City Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Wales

Starting with the hosts, while Wales may have managed to snatch a last-gasp winner to take a 1-0 win off Trinidad and Tobago in midweek, the Reds performance at Wrexham still came under some scrutiny. Despite famously reaching the semi-finals at EURO 2016 under the guidance of Chris Coleman, they appear to still be struggling to adjust to life under former captain and Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs. Suffering a 2-1 loss to Denmark in their final UEFA Nations League contest back in November, the Dragons had to settle for another campaign in League B. Still looking to really build in what is being billed as a new generation for Welsh football, Sunday’s hosts will be boosted by their recent success against Slovakia. When the two sides met in the opening match of the group stage out in France three years ago Wales came away with a 2-1 victory. If the Reds are to get their qualifying campaign off to a winning start then they will unsurprisingly be looking for all-time leading goalscorer Gareth Bale to lead their charge. Finding the net in Zinedine Zidane’s return to the Bernabeu, the Real Madrid forward has scored 31 goals in his 74 international caps.

Team News

The hosts will also be without Tom Lawrence, Ethan Ampadu and Sam Vokes who didn’t link up with Wales this week having been named in the initial 31-man squad.

But David Brooks is available after recovering from an ankle problem suffered while playing for Bournemouth earlier this month.

Slovakia

As for the visitors, picking up a 2-0 win over Hungary on Wednesday, Slovakia will see Wales as direct competition in a qualifying group they also share with last year’s World Cup finalists Croatia. Although their victory in midweek may have improved the atmosphere in Pavel Hapal’s camp, they did endure a torrid time in the inaugural UEFA Nations League. Losing three of their four contests and finishing behind both the Czech Republic and Ukraine, Slovakia were relegated from League B. Despite getting their qualifying campaign off to a winning start in midweek, Slovakia have famously struggled outside of Trnava. Slumping to a 1-0 loss against the Czech Republic in their last matchup on the road, Hapal’s side have lost six of their last seven matches on their travels and have not picked up an away victory since a 2-1 win over Lithuania back in June 2016. More worrying for Sunday’s visitors, they have failed to score in any of their last three competitive matches outside of Slovakia.

Team News

Newcastle United’s Martin Dubravka will take his place in goal for the visitors. Marek Hamsik, Slovakia’s most-capped footballer, will be asked to pull the strings for Hapal’s men. Ondrej Duda and Albert Rusnak will be hungry for more goals after finding the net in midweek.

Key Factors to Consider

  • The last time the two sides met Wales came away with a 2-1 victory.
  • Wales have not scored more than a single goal in any of their last six matchups.
  • Gareth Bale has scored 31 goals in his 74 international caps.
  • Slovakia have failed to win any of their last seven matches away from home, losing six of those contests.
  • They have also failed to score in their last three competitive matches away from Trnava.

Conclusion

While Wales may have faltered to deceive against Trinidad & Tobago in midweek, Ryan Giggs side will be boosted by the return of both Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale. Given Slovakia’s very public struggles on the road, particularly in the final third, we’re backing the Reds to come away with the victory in what could still be a cagey encounter at the Principality.

Verdict: Wales win and under 3.5 goals

Best Odds: 7/5

Bookmaker: Bet365

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Dunstan


Formerly of The Independent, Tom is a freelance football and boxing journalist from Essex, England. Currently working for three online publications, Tom is a graduate of the University of Falmouth and has spent the last two years writing across Australia, New Zealand and Asia. He can be followed at @IamTomDunstan

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