Having won their opening game against Slovakia, Wales are heading into this crucial Group B encounter with England, with loads of confidence. England, on paper, have a far better squad than Wales, but the pressure is on them to deliver, having salvaged only a point from their opening game against Russia. Anything apart from a win will put the Three Lions under immense pressure and they may struggle to qualify from their group.
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Here are three key battles to watch out for:
Gareth Bale vs Gary Cahill: The Real Madrid superstar, who has been a £94m reported target of Manchester United, remains England’s major threat and Roy Hodgson will have to come up with a plan to disrupt Bale’s attacking instincts. He is 19/10 with William Hill to score anytime during the match on Thursday.
Bale, with his blistering pace and great shooting ability, can cause damage to any side if he is given space in and around the final third.
England midfielders’ central focus will be to drag him out wide on the flanks so that he doesn’t get enough clear cut chances to aim at goal from central areas. Otherwise, Gary Cahill and Chris Smalling will have a tough time ahead on the pitch. They have to use all their experience and skills to prevent Bale from getting into dangerous shooting areas.
Wayne Rooney vs Joe Allen: Hodgson sees Rooney as a playmaker rather than an out-and-out striker. He thinks Rooney has the required skills and maturity to operate as a creative playmaker in the side. That’s his new role now.
Against Russia, we saw, Rooney spraying out long passes from midfield and stretching the game wide, allowing the full backs to have more influence in the game. It will be interesting to see, whether Rooney is given enough space to pick those passes. Joe Allen will likely to close him down and cramp him for space. If Wales can stop Rooney from making those intelligent passes, they will have won half the battle.
William Hill offers 7/1 for Rooney to score, both teams to score and England to win.
England’s #9 vs Ashley Williams: Harry Kane failed to impress in the opening match against Russia and it remains to be seen whether he retains his place in the first XI for England. Swansea defender Ashley Williams was immense in Wales’ victory over Slovakia, where he made three interceptions, three blocks and three clearances during the game.