BILLY BUNTER

Weblog: The football punter

Wales can grab Nations League promotion

Nations League
Sky Sports Football, 7.45pm Friday


Wales have had mixed fortunes since reaching the semi-finals at Euro 2016 but can seal a place in the top tier of the Nations League by beating Denmark at the Cardiff City Stadium.

Gareth Bale has been the Welsh talisman for several years and is set to take on the Danes after recovering from a minor ankle knock sustained during Real Madrid's 4-2 success at Celta Vigo on Sunday.

The 29-year-old superstar returned to training and his involvement would be a huge boost to Ryan Giggs, who is on the brink of achieving his first major milestone as an international manager.

However, Wales did well without Bale and Aaron Ramsey last month – deservedly beating Ireland 1-0 in Dublin – and are perhaps not as reliant on their star players as they were two years ago.

Liverpool winger Harry Wilson capped off an excellent performance in Dublin with a superb free-kick.

And Bournemouth attacker David Brooks is playing with lots of confidence, having notched in three of his last six Premier League appearances.

Brooks and Wilson have looked immediately at ease in the international arena and their progress takes some of the pressure off Bale and Ramsey, who are back in the frame to face the Danes.

Wales are no longer look a one-man team but Denmark, who need a win to finish top and a draw to take it to the last game (they host Ireland on Monday), are still reliant on Christian Eriksen, who orchestrated their run to the World Cup last 16.

Eriksen was responsible for two of Denmark's three goals at the World Cup, delivering one assist and one goal, and notched twice as the Danes won 2-0 at home to Wales in September.

More recently Eriksen has had to overcome an abdominal strain and he was sorely missed as Denmark played out a dull 0-0 draw away to Ireland last month.

Tottenham have been careful with Eriksen's recovery and left him out of Saturday's 1-0 success at Crystal Palace.

But the 26-year-old still seems to be working his way back to full match fitness and might struggle to match the heights of his performance against the Welsh in Copenhagen.

Denmark have other threats and Wales defenders will need to pay particularly close attention to Leipzig attacker Yussuf Poulsen, who has bagged six goals in the Bundesliga this season.

The quality of service into Poulsen will be heavily dependent on Eriksen's contribution and Denmark may not be as solid at the back without captain Simon Kjaer, who misses out through injury.

Kjaer's likely replacement, Chelsea centre-back Andreas Christensen, has a decent pedigree but is out of favour at Stamford Bridge and a lack of game-time could count against him.

Denmark are used to leaning heavily on their defensive strength and organisation but may struggle to shackle Wales and could be heading for defeat.

Recommendations
Wales

The Football Site

Like on Facebook

Google +1

 

Match in Focus

15:00 TODAY

Huddersfield v Newcastle

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Both teams have scored in three of the last five meetings
Expert verdict
Huddersfield are back into the relegation places but, before last week’s defeat to Arsenal, had notched in five consecutive Premier League games. The visiting Magpies have scored five goals in their last four matches on the road and can contribute to a high-scoring affair at the John Smith’s Stadium.