Wales will be looking to end the first international break of the 2019-20 season on a high, when they welcome Belarus to Cardiff for a friendly.
Wales will be aiming to notch up a victory when they face off against Belarus, in what will be the first meeting between the two nations since 2001, at the Cardiff City Stadium on Monday night.
Ryan Giggs’ Wales come into the game on the back of a hard-fought 2-1 victory against minnows Azerbaijan in Group E of the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers on Friday night. It was a necessary win after the Dragons had lost both their preceding qualifying matches back in June.
Now that they have returned to winning ways, Wales will be hoping to carry that momentum into the friendly on Monday night in front of their home support and notch up another victory.
Belarus also head into the friendly having picked up a 2-1 win against Estonia away from home. It was their first win of the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers, that brought an end to a run of four defeats.
It was also the first match in-charge for new manager Mikhail Markhel, after the White Wings let go of Igor Kriushenko following the poor start to their qualifying campaign. Markhel and his team will be aiming to build on the win and notch up a win against a Wales side that hasn’t looked all too convincing at times.
Ahead of the friendly encounter in Cardiff on Monday, we at The Hard Tackle take a closer look at both sets of squads;
Team News & Tactics
Giggs has opted not to call up captain Ashley Williams and Newcastle United defender Paul Dummett, while midfield mainstay Aaron Ramsey withdrew from the squad. Dylan Levitt, Kieffer Moore and Joe Morrell are the three uncapped players in the ranks.
Given that it is a friendly, manager Giggs might opt to rotate his troops on Monday night and give an opportunity to some of the younger players in his ranks to impress. The manager hasn’t settled on a particular formation in his tenure so far, but is likely to stick with the 4-2-3-1 setup he used against Azerbaijan.
Former Liverpool goalkeeper Danny Ward is likely to come into the lineup ahead of Wayne Hennessey, while the defence too could be in for a restructure despite Chris Mepham and debutant Joe Rodon impressing last time out. Chris Gunter and Ben Davies ought to replace Connor Roberts and Neil Taylor as the two full-backs with James Lawrence and Tom Lockyer getting the nod at the heart of the defence.
Will Vaulks should come into the side, taking up one of the two pivot positions in the middle of the park. Alongside the Wigan Athletic midfielder, 19-year-old Matt Smith could get a look-in into the team. Morrell might get a chance to make his debut from the bench at a later stage in the game.
Jonny Williams is likely to come into the side as the No. 10, but the rest of the attack is likely to bear a similar look to the one that started against Azerbaijan. Daniel James and Harry Wilson are likely to slot in out on the left and right flank respectively, with captain Gareth Bale, who scored the winner in the qualifier, spearheading the attack for Wales.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Ward; Gunter, Lawrence, Lockyer, Davies; Vaulks, Smith; Wilson, Williams, James; Bale
Markhel has called up a number of new faces to the squad, with there being six uncapped players in the roster – Maksim Plotnikov, Zakhar Volkov, Kiryl Pyachenin, Nikolay Zolotov, Max Ebong and Yevgeniy Shevchenko. Seasoned campaigner Igor Shitov miss out on selection as do Syarhey Kislyak and Alyaksandr Martynovich.
In what will just be his second match at the helm, Markhel might look to give a chance to some of the players that were not involved in the win against Estonia, in order to assess the options at his disposal. Belarus are likely to continue with the 4-2-3-1 formation with Andrey Klimovich starting in goal in place of Alyksandar Hutar.
Syarhey Matsveychyk should continue at right-back, while Zolotov could be in line for his debut on the opposite side of the backline. Nikita Naumov, who scored in the win against Estonia, should hold on to his spot at the heart of the defence. Partnering him on Monday should be 23-year-old Aleksandr Pavlovets.
Yevgeniy Yablonski, who made his debut against Estonia, should continue in one of the two pivot positions in Cardiff. The 24-year-old could see a change in partners, with Dzmitry Baha likely to make his fifth international appearance against Wales.
Ivan Bakhar, who has scored six goals and assisted five more in the Belarussian league for FK Minsk, could get a start on the right flank, after making his debut from the bench against Estonia. Stanislaw Drahun, who is the most experienced player in the squad with 60 caps, should continue as the No. 10, while Ihar Stasevich should also hold on to his place on the left side.
Yevgeniy Shevchenko could be set for his international debut on Monday night, slotting in as the lone striker ahead of Mikalay Signevich.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Klimovich, Matsveychyk, Pavlovets, Naumov, Zolotov; Baha, Yablonskiy; Bakhar, Drahun, Stasevich; Shevchenko
- This will be the fifth time Wales and Belarus will be meeting. The hosts have the upper-hand when it comes to head-to-head record between the two sides, having picked up three wins, while losing the other.
- The last time these two sides clashed was way back in October 2001, in a World Cup qualifier, which Wales won 1-0.
- Since taking over the Wales managerial job, Giggs has overseen 14 fixtures, winning only six of those, while ending up on the losing side on seven occasions (D1).
- Prior to their win against Estonia earlier in the week, Belarus had lost four matches in a row. In that run, the White Wings had scored just one goal, while conceding nine goals.
- 30-year-old Chris Gunter is the highest-capped player for the Wales national team, having made 95 appearances since making his debut in 2007.
Player to Watch
The Real Madrid superstar has put behind a summer of uncertainty and has made a sharp start to the new season for his club, scoring two goals and grabbing an assist in three La Liga matches. Bale has carried that form to the international stages as well, playing a critical role in Wales’ win against Azerbaijan earlier in the week.
Bale’s driving run at the visitors’ defence forced the first goal, while he was at hand to head home the winner late on. Captaining the side in Ashley Williams’ absence, the 30-year-old will once again look to lead from the front and fire his side to another victory.
Wales 2-1 Belarus
Neither team have been in the best of forms in recent fixtures, but managed to end their respective losing streaks in the UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifiers earlier this week. Wales got the better of minnows Azerbaijan, while Belarus defeated fellow strugglers Estonia.
The hosts are likely to field a much-changed side on Monday night as Ryan Giggs looks to test some of the squad members who weren’t involved in the qualifier. Belarus also might look to make some alterations to the side that took the field in manager Mikhail Markhel’s first match.
While Wales haven’t been at their best for quite some time now, their superior quality should be enough to help see off the challenge that Belarus will pose at Cardiff. We at The Hard Tackle are predicting another 2-1 win for Giggs’ side.