1- Who will start for Wales?
Ever since Ryan Giggs was first announced as Manager of the Welsh National Team, he’s spoken about his desire to help bring through a new generation of talent to infuse into the squad that’s done so well in recent years. Under Chris Coleman, the Welsh side rarely differed from match to match, but under Ryan Giggs a number of new players have begun to break through, and there have been some eye-catching performances from these eager players.
This leads us to our first point of interest: Who will start for Wales against Ireland? Connor Roberts has been impressive since breaking into the side and looks like a more attacking alternative to Chris Gunter, highlighted by his well-taken goal against the Irish in Cardiff. Young centre-back Chris Mepham has also impressed and has seemingly done enough to be considered an impressive alternative to stalwarts Ashley Williams and James Chester in the heart of the defence. But with Mepham having rejoined his club side earlier this week, it may be Swansea City youngster Joe Rodon who could make a name for himself against Ireland if Giggs decides to reward the 20-year old for his good form since breaking into the Swans first team. Realistically, the only defender seemingly guaranteed his place currently is Tottenham Hotspur defender Ben Davies, who is comfortable on the left side of a back three, or as a left back. With Declan John having started against Spain, is he the one to finally challenge Davies for the starting spot? And that’s without mentioning the versatile Jazz Richards, who can play in either full-back slot – he could well force his way back into the starting 11.
In midfield, the only player who looks like a guaranteed starter is Joe Allen. Under Coleman, the midfield generally lined up with Joe Allen, Aaron Ramsey and Joe Ledley acting as the three in midfield, however, since Giggs’ arrival, Ethan Ampadu has taken over Joe Ledley’s role of protecting the defence. With Ampadu having suffered an injury against Spain, and with Ramsey having to withdraw following the birth of his twins, there is a big question over who will start in midfield now. Youngster Matthew Smith looks like a real talent and has impressed off the bench in recent matches, while the more experienced Andy King offers a physical alternative and both may be chosen by Giggs in such a high-pressure match against the Irish. Of course, with the players missing out, Giggs may opt to change formation, moving from a midfield three to a midfield two, which may see either King or Smith dropping to the bench. The decision over who starts in midfield may end up playing a crucial part in the match, and it will be interesting to see what Giggs decides to do following the enforced withdrawals of key players.
In attack, Sam Vokes looks likely to continue as the main attacker, despite youngster Tyler Roberts being in impressive form recently. The big question is who else will be picked in attack, with Tom Lawrence, Harry Wilson and David Brooks all looking like promising attackers who have all been in good form this season, being joined by Gwion Edwards who has been called up for the first time by Giggs after some good performances for Ipswich Town this season. With Ben Woodburn and George Thomas also included in the squad despite a lack of first-team chances at club level this season, there is plenty of talented options for Giggs to choose from, and there should still be plenty to excite Welsh fans, despite the absence of talisman Gareth Bale, who misses out through injury.
It will certainly be very interesting to see how Giggs decides to set up the Wales side against Ireland, with an abundance of options available to call upon, it will surely be a big talking point, regardless of the result.
2- Recent Rivalry
There’s been something of a renewed rivalry between the two Nations since the Qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The first match between the two sides ended in a 0-0 draw, that was overshadowed by a horrific injury to Seamus Coleman, which resulted in Neil Taylor being sent off. The second match was the decider, with the winner earning a Play-Off match to have one last chance at Qualifying for the World Cup in Russia. With Wales strong favourites in Cardiff, it was the Irish who ended up with the win, with James McClean scoring the winner.
When the two teams were first drawn together in the new Nations League tournament, the potential to revisit the rivalry seemed like a tantalising prospect to all. The potential to get revenge on the Irish was realised by Giggs at the start of September in the first match of the Nations League, with Wales winning 4-1 in a dominant display. While Wales will be desperate to perform to the standards set in that victory, they come into the match on the back of convincing defeats against Denmark and Spain and will know that the Irish will be desperate to get revenge for the bruising defeat.
3- The Atmosphere
With the match against Spain being played at the Principality Stadium, more commonly known by its former name the Millennium Stadium, the debate regarding the atmosphere of Wales matches has come to fore once again. With many fans believing the side should continue to play their home matches at the Cardiff City Stadium, despite the growing success of the National side has brought many new fans to watch the side, the fierce debate appears as though it will continue to drag on. With the Aviva Stadium in Dublin it is known for having its own intense atmosphere, and with the prospect of renewing the rivalry that has grown exponentially in recent matches, it will be interesting to see if there will be a buzz about the place, or whether there will be an element of restraint about the atmosphere on Tuesday.
FEATURED IMAGE – ‘Bale taking on Seamus Coleman during Wales’ 4-1 victory in the opening match of the UEFA Nations League’
Photo Credit: Reuters
Photo available from: https://www.dhakatribune.com/sport/football/2018/09/07/wales-tear-ireland-apart-in-nations-league-opener
‘A new generation is coming through to compliment the current squad’
Photo Credit: AFP
Photo available from: https://www.foxsports.com.au/football/gareth-bale-scores-stunner-as-wales-put-four-of-the-best-past-ireland/news-story/9758de03e7e31ac5a018fd9cff5ec15f