BEN LEVENE (@BenLevene96) shares his thoughts on the crucial World Cup qualifier between Wales and Austria on Saturday.
Wales v Austria | Saturday 2nd September 2017, 19:45 | Sky Sports
In need of a win to stay within touching distance of qualification for next summer’s World Cup, Wales host Austria. After surprising all at the 2016 Euros, Chris Coleman’s men have started World Cup qualification slowly, often struggling to break down sides who sit deep, paying respect to their threat on the counter.
Gareth Bale has been troubled by injury over the last 12 months, but with their star-man back fit, Wales will be hoping they can make up lost ground during this international break.
Coleman’s back-five system has proved so reliable and successful but a combination of injury, suspension and opponent’s tactics have meant he’s had to toy with different formations to muster results.
Nonetheless, the Dragons have remained characteristically tough to beat this qualification campaign; they’re unbeaten, the problem has been grinding out three points, a task which they performed with such success prior to Euro 2016.
They’ve won just the one of six qualification games, drawing five. Wales boast the best defensive record in their group, conceding only five goals in six matches.
Incidentally Austria also tend to be involved in tight encounters, each of their last five international games (including friendlies) have seen Under 2.5 Goals.
But there is more to Austria than meets the eye, they haven’t been entirely convincing at the back. They’ve kept just one clean sheet in six this qualification campaign, and that came at home to strugglers Moldova who are yet to win a game.
But with all still to play for, Austria who are level on points with Wales, will be no rollovers.
The betting angles
It’s worth considering that Wales are without the suspended Joe Allen and Neil Taylor, the former being an especially key player. Joe Ledley has been pivotal in previous Welsh success but is without a club so is unlikely to start while Aaron Ramsey has had injury trouble this week so may not be at full pelt.
Main man Gareth Bale has scored four goals in three home qualification games and with some minutes under his belt back in Madrid, he’s tempting at 5/4 to score anytime with 888.
With his country in need, we can back the talisman to come up with the goods yet again.
Both sides have tended to be involved in corner-heavy encounters. Wales have accumulated six or more corners in four of their six qualifiers, achieving five on one of the occasions they fell short.
Austria’s last three qualifiers have seen over 11 corners. Even in their 3-2 loss in Serbia before that, they conceded seven corners. Corners look the way to go in a possible cagey game, with a lot on the line for both nations.
Wales seem quite short in corner markets so our attention should be turned to total corners. SkyBet offer 11/10 on 11 or more corners and with odds-on price’s quoted elsewhere, we should take note. The in-form Sam Vokes should lead the line, so expect frequent crosses from Wales’ wing-backs.