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Wales continue without Ryan Giggs at the helm and they’re getting their hardest fixture done straight off the bat, though their hopes of World Cup qualification will almost certainly hinge upon results elsewhere.
However, they’ll take encouragement from past encounters with Belgium, having taken a point off them in Brussels during the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, four points from the Euro 2016 qualifiers, as well as a 3-1 win in the quarter-finals of that tournament itself.
That four-game unbeaten streak should come to an end here, but there’s reason to think they can avoid a humiliation.
The Dragons are W9-D4-L1 since September 2019, though the defeat did come on the only occasion where they encountered elite opposition as they went down 3-0 to England at Wembley.
In mitigation, they didn’t have their best team out that day with key men Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey unavailable, though neither did England as Gareth Southgate handed opportunities to numerous players that wouldn’t be considered first-team regulars.
Of course, Bale is now 31 and Ramsey is 30, whereas both were in their absolute prime when these two sides played a number of head to heads in close succession.
Ramsey has also suffered another injury setback and isn’t included in the squad, having only played once in Wales’ past eight internationals now.
Frustratingly for caretaker Robert Page, David Brooks misses out as well, though the visitors aren’t without threat as Daniel James and Harry Wilson provide a threat alongside talisman Bale.
Still, Wales have long been a low-scoring team focused on defensive discipline and a reliance on star quality in attack.
However, their frontline may be starved of service here, and their meagre output against the weaker sides they’ve typically encountered of late suggests they’ll draw a blank here.
In fact, Wales have scored more than once in just four of their past 23 matches, as those came against Azerbaijan (twice), Hungary and Finland.
Belgium To Win To Nil
Wales have now seen fewer than three goals in 11 of their past 13 outings, and just one strike or none at all in four of their last five.
However, they haven’t faced teams of real quality aside from that loss to England in October, and Belgium should simply have too much for them.
Roberto Martinez’s side are W16-D1-L1 since March 2019, as 14 of those victories came by a minimum two-goal margin, while in the qualifiers for Euro 2016 they recorded a perfect 10 out of 10 as they scored 40 times and conceded just three goals.
Eden Hazard’s injury nightmare at Real Madrid continues as he misses out here, as does midfielder Alex Witsel, but Martinez retains a star studied squad featuring the likes of Thibaut Courtois, Kevin De Bruyne and even Romelu Lukaku despite a coronavirus outbreak at club side Inter.
Although Wales tend to have low-scoring affairs and will hope to keep things tight, Belgium are more than capable of opening the floodgates and the win to nil makes the most sense here.