Wales v Austria – September 2, 2017 – City Stadium, Cardiff – 19:45 hrs: WC 2018 Qualifier preview: Group D
Wales and Real Madrid star Gareth Bale will be joining the Welsh squad in preparation for his country's WC 2018 qualifying home clash against Austria on Saturday. The Real striker who had missed out on June's tie with Serbia following a two-match suspension is raring to go at Cardiff.
Coach Chris Coleman has gone in for a new face in the mid-field space by including the 16-year old Ethan Ampadu from Exeter City.
Stoke City midfielder Joe Allen will miss out on the Cardiff clash owing to a one-match suspension for earning a second yellow-card in the match against Serbia. Same will apply to left-back Neil Taylor who is on a two-match ban.
Ex-Crystal Palace midfielder Joe Ledley finds his way in despite being without a club and virtually no pre-season practice. Barnsley goalkeeper Adam Davies has been given the green light in place of Owain Fon Williams. But it could be Crystal Palace's 30-year old Wayne Hennessey who in all probability will man the posts in the clash against Austria.
For Austria, West Ham midfielder Marko Arnautovic will be one of the mainstays of the side's attack. Arnautovic will be a real threat to the Welsh defense and his double in the 2-2 draw in Vienna in October 2016 will be fresh in the minds of the hosts when they receive the Austrians on Saturday.
A surprise omission is that of Kevin Wimmer, the Tottenham defender who incidentally is a £15 million West Brom target. SK Rapid's Maximilian Wober and Rubin Kazan's Moritz Bauer are two new faces in the Austrian defensive space, but whether they will feature in the Cardiff clash is another matter.
Both Wales and Austria are on an identical 8 points and place 3rd and 4th on the table of the Group D cluster. A goal difference of three gives Wales the edge going into the Cardiff clash and just a draw will suffice for the hosts to maintain the goal-gap. But Chris Coleman's men seriously need to get out of the vice grip of draws they have got themselves into if they are to make any progress in the Group.
The Welsh are a clear 4 points below 2nd placed Republic of Ireland and the fact that they have played out 5 drawn games in succession hasn't helped their cause a bit. The Austrians have fared worse having won just a solitary outing from their last 5 qualifiers.
Wales are the UK bookmakers' favorites to emerge winners from the September 2nd clash, but the chances of a drawn game loom large, which is bad for both teams.