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Talking points: Wales vs Austria

Saturday 2nd September 2017
It is a game Wales must simply win if they are to harbour any hopes of qualification to Russia 2018: here are the main talking points ahead of the crunch match in Cardiff on Saturday.

Wales vs Austria talking points

Meagre midfield

Joe Allen, Wales' midfield gem is suspended; his perennial partner, Joe Ledley, is without a club and Dave Edwards and Andy King have had little game time so far this season. It leaves Chris Coleman with an unwanted selection nightmare. Who does he play in the two CDM roles that are integral to his 5-3-2 formation?

Ramsey, most likely, will have to come back and occupy one of the roles - Coleman may give him licence to be box-to-box - but who is partner will be, is the biggest question. Coleman speaks highly of Ledley, and from his comments, it seems as though if he feels Ledley is match sharp he will start. This would be a risk, obviously, but Ledley has enough international pedigree and nouse about him to manage. He will not last the whole ninety, however.

Then it depends on how the game is panning out; if Wales are winning, and are seeking to protect a lead, Coleman will look to Edwards. If the Dragons are still in search of a goal, King will step-in.

Neither of these options, including Ledley, are ideal. Wales will have to win one of the most important matches of qualification without a fully-fit and fully-strengthened midfield.

It's a must win, for both sides.

Wales and Austria are level on eight points, four points behind the Republic of Ireland and Serbia, who both have 12 points. Group D is fiercely tight, with no one team looking likely to run away with it.

This is why every game is a must win for both sides, from now until mid-October when the last ball is kicked. If either side wants to jump into the top two, they need victories.

This is why it is likely to be an intriguing spectacle come Saturday; Wales are likely to push for the win, and Austria cannot just settle for the draw. If this game ends in a draw, neither side will be happy. It is do or die for both nations.

Wales' attack

Gareth Bale will undoubtedly start. Sam Vokes is likely to start. Yet with Ramsey probably dropping into a CDM role, who fills the vacant no.10 spot?
Wales likes to play will two roaming no.10 and the Ramsey-Bale axis worked magic in last summer's EURO 2016 championship.

Tom Lawrence was in scintillating form for Ipswich Town last season and has recently joined Derby. He now needs to start producing on the international stage; his potential is boundless, but he must realise it.

Johnny Williams is a neat, deft and tricky player. Williams has always done well for Wales, but like so many others has found game-time hard to come by.

Marley Watkins is a newcomer to the squad, having impressed last season with Barnsley - racking up a healthy number of assists and goals. A debut start for Watkins might be the inspiration needed to push Wales over the line on this one.

Yet Coleman could opt for a front two, and Bale in behind, with Hal Robson-Kanu and Vokes a striking pair. Coleman has done so before, and it would make a deal of sense.

The Wales chief has options, but not without various drawbacks. The pressure is sky-high for this encounter, so whatever decision Coleman makes it has to be the right one. Time will only tell.
Michael Jones

Football & political writer with a predictable love of everything retro. English Literature undergraduate at the University of Exeter, looking to pursue a career in sports journalism. For a collection of my work, visit. http://mikejonesmedia.wordpress.com

Follow me on twitter: @jonesmichael_97

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