Five talking points ahead of Georgia v Wales

05 October 2017 09:57

Wales are second in World Cup Qualifying Group D heading into their final two matches.

Chris Coleman’s side go to Georgia on Friday before hosting the Republic of Ireland three days later.

Here, Press Association Sport looks at some of the main talking points ahead of Wales’ game in Tbilisi.

Coping without Gareth Bale

How Wales manage without their Real Madrid talisman Bale will go a long way to determining whether qualification hopes are still intact for the final game against the Republic. Wales’ record without Bale makes for dismal reading: no win in the last 10 games he has missed (eight defeats and two draws) and no competitive victory without him since October 2013. Bale’s absence is obviously a huge blow but, on the plus side, Wales now possess more attacking options than for many years.

What will be Woodburn’s role?

Liverpool teenager Ben Woodburn made a dramatic impact on his Wales debut last month. The 17-year-old scored the winner within five minutes of coming on as a second-half substitute against Austria before being sent on again to set up the opening goal in a 2-0 win in Moldova three days later. The easy conclusion to make from Bale’s injury is that Woodburn could be handed his first international start. But the indications are that, for now at least, Wales see Woodburn as an impact player who can make a difference against tiring opponents.

Main man Ramsey

All eyes will be on Aaron Ramsey in Gareth Bale's absence (Simon Cooper/PA)
All eyes will be on Aaron Ramsey in Gareth Bale’s absence (Simon Cooper/PA)

Without Bale, the spotlight will fall heavily on Aaron Ramsey. The Arsenal midfielder will win his 50th cap in Tbilisi and there is no doubt that he has played some of his best games in a Wales shirt. Ramsey was magnificent in helping Wales reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2016 and stepped up again in the 1-1 away draw with group leaders Serbia when Bale was suspended and Wales were depleted elsewhere. Those leadership skills will be needed again on Friday night when Ramsey could be used in a more advanced role.

Yellow peril

Ashley Williams and Hal Robson-Kanu are two Welsh players one booking away from a suspension (David Davies/PA)
Ashley Williams and Hal Robson-Kanu are two Welsh players one booking away from a suspension (David Davies/PA)

Several Wales players will be walking a disciplinary tightrope at the Boris Paichadze Stadium. No fewer than seven players – Ramsey, skipper Ashley Williams, James Chester, Ben Davies, Joe Ledley, Andy King and Hal Robson-Kanu – are one booking away from missing the Republic game through suspension. In what is expected to be a hostile atmosphere in Tbilisi, it is hard to imagine that none of the seven will pick up a yellow card and be ruled out of the Ireland game.

Will the numbers add up?

Wales might need two wins to make it to the play-offs (Steven Paston/PA)
Wales might need two wins to make it to the play-offs (Steven Paston/PA)

FIFA’s play-off riddle of nine into eight does not go means one group runner-up will miss out on next month’s final shot at making Russia 2018. Unbeaten Wales’ penchant for drawing games (they have drawn five of their eight qualifiers) has put them at risk of being the unlucky runner-up should they finish second. But an extremely complicated picture should become clearer after the penultimate round of fixtures. Wales might need two wins to make the play-offs, but a Belgium victory in Bosnia on Saturday is set to reduce the target from the final two games to four points.

Source: By PA Sport Staff


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