Wales vs. England: Key Battles and Players To Watch in Euro 2012 Qualifier
Usually when England and Wales collide in a televised confrontation, it appears on Gavin & Stacey, and people laugh out loud (at least I do). But this Saturday sees the two countries fielding their strongest football teams, in Wales’ Millennium Stadium, for a World Cup qualifier with some bite.
England are expected to win, but it should be an interesting encounter. Of course the teams need Rooney and Bellamy to be on form, and Hart and Hennessey to be solid, but there are some classic encounters that should take place. Here are what should be the key battles in the game.
Fabio Capello Vs. Gary Speed
The two managers couldn’t be further apart in their careers—Speed has managed less than 20 games, while Capello has been a manager for 20 years.
Capello is in a very pressurized situation, as his England team, captained again by the massively overrated John Terry, are trophy-less and are often made to look average despite the positive and bold predictions that were made when he took over in 2008. Speed on the other hand, has only managed one game for Wales—a 3-0 loss to Northern Ireland—and naturally, being the manager of Wales, isn’t under the cosh like his counterpart.
Anything better than a loss would be brilliant for Speed and Wales, anything less than a win for England and Capello would see the tabloid hacks sharpen their swords once again.
Jack Wilshere Vs. Aaron Ramsey
Although it’s not sure exactly certain who will be playing where on Saturday, it’s likely that Wilshere and Ramsey might find themselves playing in a similar patch of green. The two players are lucky enough to play for Arsenal, but unfortunate enough to have each other, and others, for competition to get into the Arsenal starting line-up.
My guess is Wilshere will play the midfield position with a touch of defensiveness to it, and Ramsey will be used as an attacking midfielder, to play balls though to Bellamy.
Wilshere is having one of the best seasons enjoyed by an English teenager in quite some time, but it’s curious to wonder that if Ramsey hadn’t been injured at Stoke last season, it might have been him playing instead of Wilshere, and showing the Premiership just how good he is.
On Saturday, Ramsey has his chance to readdress the balance. As an Arsenal featured columnist and lifelong fan, I’m hoping they both play well, but that Wilshere is the one on the winning team.
Aaron Lennon Vs. Gareth Bale
Like Wilshere and Ramsey, Lennon and Bale are two players who also share a looker room at a North London club. As they typically hug the right and left wing respectively, they will come up against each other on Saturday. It's fortunate for both sides, because not many other players have the pace to catch either of them. Look out for Lennon's eyebrows, which even have speed stripes reminiscent of a Dodge Viper.
Although Lennon is often second-choice to Theo Walcott, and would probably be on the bench if it weren’t for Arsenal’s number 14’s ankle injury, he is a determined attacker and underrated player on the Tottenham team. Bale will have to maraud and leave Lennon in order to attack, but leaving him too much with the opportunity for one on ones, or two on ones with Glen Johnson, and England will definitely win this.
Bale will want to show England and the rest of the watching world just how good he is, and my prediction is he will have the upper hand over Lennon, but is at a disadvantage without the strength around him that Lennon has with England.