CHRIS Graham (@chrisgraham79) is in the hotseat for Sunday’s clash between Serbia and Wales.
Serbia v Wales | Sunday 19:45 | Sky Sports 1
Wales’s last trip to Serbia has been well documented in the build up to this match and indeed it may be relevant. Back in September 2012 the Welsh were humbled 5-1 in the former Yugoslav territory and Chris Coleman was under serious pressure.
That night proved to be as bad as it got for Coleman and the Welsh and they slowly began extricating themselves away from the precipice from there on in.
Memories of 2012 clash
The Welsh ended that campaign with a draw in Belgium and from there they were revitalised and recharged and famously qualified for Euro 2016.
Last summer was a huge success for the nation as they went all the way to the semi-finals in France in what was Welsh football’s (even Welsh sport’s) finest hour.
The climb down from Euro 2016
What comes up though must come down and like we’ve seen with the SNP this week it’s tough at the top. Wales have spluttered through this World Cup qualifying group with just one win from the five matches.
To be fair to Coleman’s men they’re still unbeaten but they do look a shadow of their 2016 vintage. A home draw against Georgia looks incredibly costly and sacrificing two points to the Serbs late on in the reverse fixture last November has made their task very tall.
So perhaps trips to Serbia will be bookends for this Welsh side? While the 5-1 loss in 2012 was the trigger to kick-start a new exciting era, maybe the 2017 follow up will put the era to sleep?
If Wales lose here they’ll drop seven points behind the Serbs with just four games left and if Ireland beat Austria at home it will surely end Coleman’s hopes of leading his nation to a second successive major finals.
No Bale, no hope?
One key fact adds to the belief that Wales will struggle on Sunday and that is that their talisman Gareth Bale is suspended. Along with Neil Taylor he emerged with little credit after their match against Ireland in March and they both sit out on Sunday. Bale’s absence severely weakens the Welsh.
In the other corner, it’s rosy for Serbia. They arrive at this fixture with a near full-strength side and look determined to reach their first major finals as an independent nation.
Unbeaten during this campaign, unbeaten in five at home and looking inspired under the tutelage of Slavoljub Muslin I reckon the Serbs are a cracking bet on Sunday night.
These sides look to be heading in opposite directions of momentum and without Bale I can’t see Wales putting up a fight here. 3/4 isn’t the kind of price we usually play on at WLB so I’ll back them -1 on the Asian Handicap at 11/8 with Paddy Power. If they win by exactly one goal I’ll get my money back.
Serbia v Wales – Serbia -1 Asian Handicap (11/8 Paddy Power)