United only through their common loathing of England, Scotland and Wales would never proclaim to be friends. Tonight, they do battle with both looking to kick start their World Cup qualification campaign.
A draw will not do for either side here, for the loser another qualification failure beckons but for the winner there will still remain hope. When the two sides met in October in Cardiff the returning Fletchers, Darren and Steven buoyed the visitors.
It was the latter’s flick on who set up James Morrison for the opener but it was the Welsh wizard Gareth Bale who stole the show late on. A penalty with just ten minutes to go wasn’t enough for the Tottenham Hotspur winger who then proceeded to unleash a 25-yard thunderbolt in the 89th minute to secure all three points for his country.
Scotland go into this match with a new boss and this will be Gordon Strachan’s first competitive game. The former Scottish international got off to a winning start with a 1-0 friendly victory over Estonia.
Three new faces for this squad come in the shape of Dundee United winger Gary Mackay-Steven and Championship duo Liam Bridcutt and George Boyd. Mackay-Steven perhaps Scotland’s answer to Bale (although not in the same class) is probably the one Strachan will be really be looking to make the difference.
The tricky winger has been in fine form for his side this season and Strachan will be hoping his inventiveness and technique will provide a lift to this Scotland side.
If Scotland are to get anything from this game then Sunderland’s Steven Fletcher will need to have a big performance.
The front man has been inconsistent this season for the Black Cats and as Scotland’s main outlet it will be vital that he brings his A game. Internationally it’s been two wins from two for Scotland recently but competitively they are still yet to win a game in this qualification group. If Strachan is to enjoy more success than his predecessors you cannot help but feel he has to hit the ground running.
For Chris Coleman the victory over Scotland meant he narrowly avoided becoming the first Wales manager to lose their his five competitive matches. Aside from that it’s been pretty tough times for the former Fulham boss.
Defeats have come in Croatia, Serbia and at home to Belgium. Coleman has mixed youth with experience for this squad and the Welsh nation must be excited about a number of their prospects. Swansea full back Ben Davies has been impressive for his side this season whilst Jonathan Williams, as of now uncapped, promises an extremely bright future if his performances for Crystal Palace are anything to go by.
The main man however will be, as ever Gareth Bale. 21 goals this season mean that Bale is in the form of his life and he is the one player who will hold the key in this fixture. At the moment it looks like it will be a last minute decision on whether Bale plays or not with the winger struggling with a virus. If Wales are to get anything from this match surely Bale has to start.
All in all it promises to be quite a good match. With Belgium and Croatia way in front on 10 points each it is unlikely either Wales or Scotland will catch them. This means the match will be for nothing more than pride and to be honest neither side will want to finish bottom of this group. If Bale starts the counter attacking Wales will prove a good match for the well-organised Scots.
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