As the Premier League battle takes a well earned breather, the fight for a place at the European Championships in 2012 resumes, with an eagerly anticipated clash between Wales and England in Cardiff one of the highlights of the weekend.
England go into the game having made a solid enough start to the campaign with two wins and a draw, three points behind Montenegro with a game in hand. Wales on the other hand, face a stiff task in Gary Speed’s first competitive game in charge and will be desperate to overturn a disastrous start which has seen them lose three out of three.
One particularly intriguing battle could pitch two of the home nation’s greatest prospects against each other. Jack Wilshere has become an established fixture in Arsenal’s midfield, while Aaron Ramsey is sure to do the same after putting his injury nightmares behind him. He finally made his return in the FA Cup defeat at Manchester United after loan spells with Cardiff and Nottingham Forest having successfully recovered from his horrific broken leg. Given Ramsey’s recovery and Steven Gerrard’s absence through injury leaving an England midfield berth open, both players look set to play a key role in Saturday’s fixture.
The pair started together in Saturday’s disappointing draw at West Bromwich Albion, but all friendships will be put aside as they line up to face each other in what promises to be a heated battle. Despite Ramsey’s long absence he says he never doubted that he would return and is fired up at the prospect of his first encounter with England. The 20-year-old also admits he is excited at the possibility of getting one over on his club-mate. “There
Saturday will mark the young Welshman’s first international appearance since November 2009, and Gary Speed has no concerns about his condition, hailing his mental strength: “Aaron will be looking forward to it as much as anyone,” he said. “His recovery says a lot about him physically and mentally. He is a young lad, so his body has been able to cope, and I have watched him play in the last couple of weeks and he does steam into tackles. So, mentally he is a very strong person.” The former Sheffield United boss will be further boosted by the return of Gareth Bale and Craig Bellamy, giving the Welsh forward line a much stronger look.
Meanwhile, England boss Fabio Capello was similarly effusive in his praise of Wilshere. The midfielder has only made two appearances for the Three Lions, but his level of performance has left Capello in no doubt as to who the future of England’s midfield will revolve around. The Italian gushed: “After the game against Barcelona, he has arrived. You can understand the value of that sort of performance. As a young player, I think he is at the top, not only in England but Europe and the World.”
Wilshere will have a golden chance to cement his place in the starting line up when he faces his fellow Gunner this Saturday.