Wales v Belgium - Match preview and team news
In their first competitive fixture since the tragic death of former manager Gary Speed, Wales face up-and-coming Belgium in a World Cup 2014 qualifier at the Cardiff City Stadium. Chris Coleman has the task of leading Wales to their first World Cup since 1958.
Unfortunately for Coleman, the aftermath of Speed’s death has had a profound effect on Welsh football and the national side have yet to win or score under the former Fulham manager. Speed had built good momentum as manager and Coleman will be optimistic that despite several key players missing, Wales have the ability to trouble a Belgian side forming a great reputation.
One of those key players Coleman is without is captain Craig Bellamy, who has a calf problem and has been replaced in the squad by club teammate Robert Earnshaw. Celtic midfielder Joe Ledley is out for two weeks with a groin problem and other notable absentees are Jack Collison, David Vaughan, Neil Taylor and Wayne Hennessey.
Belgium will fancy their chances in Wales, especially with the talent they have in depth with their squad. Marc Wilmots leads a side who are brimming with Premier League pedigree in a golden era for Belgian football. Hope is high that the Red Devils can qualify for their first major tournament since 2002 and are spearheaded by Chelsea star Eden Hazard.
Arsenal defender Thomas Vermaelen is expected to shift over to left back as Tottenham’s Jan Vertonghen and Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany partner each other in central defence. Everton fans will be looking out for Marouane Fellaini and Kevin Mirallas who are involved with the squad, as well as Tottenham’s Moussa Dembele and on-loan West Brom striker Romelu Lukaku.
There will be a good atmosphere in South Wales, but the Belgium players are used to the big occasion of the Premier League and will deal with the situation. Wales will have to be on great form and rely heavily on Aaron Ramsey, because if not, they could be in for a torrid night.
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Wales v Belgium