Gareth Bale lit the touchpaper ahead of Thursday’s clash between England and Wales by claiming that no England players would get in Chris Coleman’s team.
The Real Madrid star’s comments were likely made in an attempt to distract Roy Hodgson’s side as they prepare for a crucial encounter at Euro 2016.
But it got BBC pundit Robbie Savage thinking, with the former Blackburn Rovers player making a combined England and Wales XI.
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The Three Lions sit second in Group B following their 1-1 draw against Russia. The Dragons, meanwhile, top the group after beating Slovakia.
There is a long-standing rivalry between both nations but there is every reason for Wales to be confident heading into the game. As Bale recently said, there is more pressure on Hodgson’s side and rarely have England teams coped well when levels of expectation are heightened.
The likes of Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Jonny Williams all shone in the 2-1 win against Slovakia but, showing no hint of bias, Savage picked only three Welsh players in his combined XI.
Check out his team below, per the Mirror.
Bale over Kane
The fact that England and Wales use different formations meant Savage had to adjust in certain situations but his decision to have Bale over Kane, instead of finding a way for both to be included, is interesting.
Bale has developed from a left-back into one of the finest wingers on the planet, but he was Wales’ most advanced player in Saturday’s win.
And given Kane’s indifferent performance against Russia, it’s no real surprise that the Tottenham man has been snubbed.
“If I could pick from all 46 players available in both squads, I would have Bale and Kane in my team,” Savage explained. “But in this case of having to match them up and pick just one, there is no way I could leave out the world’s most expensive player who has become a double Champions League winner with Real Madrid.”
Williams' leadership trumps Smalling
The other two Welsh players Savage included are Ramsey and Ashley Williams. Chris Smalling enjoyed a fine season for Manchester United and is England’s best centre-back but Savage prefers Williams’ leadership skills.
“For leadership, strength, bravery, aerial presence, organisation and positional sense, it’s Williams for me. He was an absolute rock in Wales’ qualifying campaign - although I acknowledge Smalling’s consistency has improved for club and country,” Savage said.
“These two would make a formidable partnership.”
The other is Arsenal’s Ramsey, who gets in ahead of Raheem Sterling. The biggest criticism of the Manchester City winger is his lack of end product, and that was on full display on Saturday.
“They play different positions because their countries don't use the same formation, but if the most important criteria were influence and end-product, then Ramsey is more likely to dictate terms than Sterling, who promised more than he delivered against Russia,” Savage said.
What is your combined England & Wales XI? Let us know in the comments section below!
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