Wales will be hoping to maintain their top spot in the group when they play hosts to the Republic of Ireland in the UEFA Nations League on Sunday.

Wales will have an excellent opportunity of potentially sealing their place at the top of Group 4 in League B when they lock horns with Ireland at the Cardiff City Stadium on Sunday. They are currently topping the group table with ten points and a win this weekend could seal their place at the top if second-placed Finland fail to secure all three points against Bulgaria on the same day.

The hosts are heading into this game on the back of a goalless draw with the young USMNT side on Wednesday. It was a good run in for Robert Page’s men, who faced a strong challenge against the youth exuberance and athleticism of their of rivals across the Atlantic. However, things could be a lot trickier when they face an Ireland side, who are much more experienced at the international stage.

The Irishmen didn’t have the best of starts to their international window so far, slumping to a 3-0 defeat to England in a friendly on Thursday. It was a game where Stephen Kenny’s men were completely outclassed as they failed to contain an English attack that was brimming with quality and talent.

But while it was only a friendly, the stakes could be a lot higher on Sunday when the Republic of Ireland take on Wales on Sunday. And here, at the Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over the two sides ahead of this exciting contest at the Cardiff City Stadium this weekend.

Team News & Tactics

Wales

Page, who is in charge in the absence of Ryan Giggs, notably rested a few of Wales’ star players in the midweek fixture against the USA so we might them introduced back into the starting lineup this weekend.

Joe Rodon, in particular, is expected to get the nod ahead of Tom Lockyer in central defence. But unfortunately, the same cannot be said for another Tottenham defender in Ben Davies as both the fullbacks in Connor Roberts and Chris Gunter did well in the last game and should, therefore, retain their place in the starting lineup.

Danny Ward, meanwhile, is set to continue in goal as Wales are missing out on the services of first-choice goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey due to injury. In midfield, Dylan Levitt and Matt Smith might continue despite poor performances in midweek. They must improve this weekend as the Welsh side lack any viable alternative.

Moving forward, the hosts could welcome Gareth Bale back into the fold after the Tottenham sensation was rested on Wednesday. The attacking superstar could feature on the flanks, alongside Daniel James, with the duo looking to provide the incision and dynamism that was missing in midweek.

Meanwhile, Harry Wilson is set to operate as the attacking midfielder, acting as a creator-in-chief home team and the offensive trifecta of him, Bale and James will look to provide supply to the main striker in Kiefer Moore, who was excellent in the last game despite failing to find the back of the net.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Ward; Roberts, Rodon, Lawrence, Gunter; Smith, Levitt; Bale, Wilson, James; Moore

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Republic of Ireland

Much like Wales, Republic of Ireland head coach Kenny also rested a bunch of his key players in the friendly against England. He is expected to introduce them back into the starting lineup, though the defensive setup should remain mostly unchanged, with only Dara O’Shea replacing the injured John Egan.

O’Shea is set to operate alongside Shane Duffy at the heart of the four-man backline with fullbacks Matt Doherty and Cyrus Christie providing additional defensive support. They will all look to cover the experienced Darren Randolph in between the sticks.

In midfield, Newcastle United star Jeff Hendrick has been a subject of a lot of criticism for his performances with the national team. He will be looking to make amends with a strong performance this weekend, alongside Jayson Molumby and Conor Hourihane, both of are expected to feature in a deeper role in the middle of the park.

In the final third, Kenny is expected to recall Robbie Brady into the starting lineup. He should replace Callum O’Dowda at left-wing with James McClean starting on the opposite flank, looking to whip in crosses towards the main striker in Adam Idah, although Sean Maguire is also a viable option.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Randolph; Christie, Duffy, O’Shea, Doherty; Molumby, Hourihane; McClean, Hendrick, Brady; Idah

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Key Stats

  • Wales did the double over the Irish in the inaugural edition of the UEFA Nations League.
  • The Boys in Green last defeated the Dragons in 2017, a FIFA World Cup qualifying fixture in Cardiff that ended in a 1-0 win for the visitors.
  • These two teams have met 18 times in official competitions, with Wales winning seven times compared to the Republic of Ireland’s record of six wins and five draws.
  • Their previous encounter resulted in a goalless draw at Ireland.
  • The hosts have been unbeaten in the recent three overall clashes.

Player to Watch

Gareth Bale

CARDIFF, WALES - SEPTEMBER 06: Gareth Bale of Wales has a drink before the UEFA Nations League B group four match between Wales and Republic of Ireland at Cardiff City Stadium on September 6, 2018 in Cardiff, United Kingdom. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Hoping to make an impact. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Gareth Bale is, no doubt, one to watch out for heading into this game. Although Jose Mourinho has been particularly vocal about the Welshman’s fitness, he is expected to get a berth in the starting lineup against the Republic of Ireland this weekend and might even tussle with his Tottenham teammate Matt Doherty on the right flank.

Since returning to north London, Bale has had a steady improvement in terms of his fitness. He did score in the narrow win over Brighton & Hove Albion but a strong performance on Sunday could go a long way in not only boosting his confidence but also the overall morale in the Spurs camp.

Prediction

Wales 0-0 Republic of Ireland

This could turn out to be yet another cagey affair for Wales, who, despite lacking incision going forward, have shown a lot of solidity in defence. We are expecting a goalless draw at the Cardiff City Stadium this weekend.

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