Nations League B, Group Four is all set to boil down to Friday’s fixture between Denmark and Wales in Cardiff.
Victory for Ryan Giggs’ side would see them complete their four-game campaign with nine points and leave them with an unassailable advantage at the top of the pool.
A win for the Danes, meanwhile, would see them earn promotion, while even a draw would suit the guests as it would leave them needing only to beat out-of-form Ireland at home to top the table.
When the sides met in Aarhus back in September, a couple of Christian Eriksen goals accounted for the Welsh, but they will hope the return of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, who missed their October fixtures, to their panel for Friday’s game can provide the X-factor they require to get them over the line.
|Game||Wales vs Denmark|
|Date||Friday, November 16|
|Time||7:45pm GMT / 2:45pm ET|
TV Channel, Live Stream & How To Watch
In the United States (US), the game can be watched on ESPN 3 and streamed on ESPN+.
|US TV channel||Online stream|
In the United Kingdom (UK), the game can be watched live on Sky Sports Football and streamed on Sky Go.
|UK TV channel||Online stream|
|Sky Sports Football||Sky Go|
Squads & Team News
|Goalkeepers||Hennessey, Ward, Davies|
|Defenders||Gunter, Williams, Chester, C. Roberts, Lockyer, Dummett, Freeman, J. Lawrence|
|Midfielders||Ramsey, King, Allen, Brooks, Wilson, Ampadu, Smith, James|
|Forwards||Bale, Vokes, T. Lawrence, Woodburn, T. Roberts, Thomas|
Neil Taylor and Chris Mepham were both initially called up by Giggs but have since been forced to pull out. Ben Davies is suspended, meanwhile.
Nevertheless, the manager can call upon Chris Gunter, Ashley Williams and James Chester, who have amassed more than 200 caps between them. Indeed, should Gunter player, he will match Neville Southall’s record for Wales caps on 92.
Aaron Ramsey will seek to pull the strings in the midfield, while Gareth Bale, who has shaken off an ankle worry, will attract the attention in an offensive capacity.
Possible Wales starting XI: Hennessey; Roberts, Williams, Chester, Dummett; Allen, Ampadu; Brooks, Ramsey, Lawrence; Bale
|Goalkeepers||Schmeichel, Ronnow, Hansen|
|Defenders||Bjelland, Ankersen, Christensen, Larsen, Jorgensen, Vestergaard, Dalsgaard, Knudsen|
|Midfielders||Eriksen, Schone, Delaney, Hojbjerg, Lerager|
|Forwards||Jorgensen, Poulsen, Braithwaite, Cornelius, Sisto, Dolberg, Gytkjaer|
Denmark are hampered by the loss of influential captain Simon Kjaer, who is absent because of a hamstring injury. Kasper Schmeichel is set to take the armband.
Huddersfield goalkeeper Jonas Lossl is also ruled out because of injury, while Copenhagen attacker Viktor Fischer is also missing.
Possible starting XI: Schmeichel; Dalsgaard, Zanka, Christensen, Larsen; Delaney, Schone; Poulsen, Eriksen, Sisto; Dolberg
Betting & Match Odds
Wales are priced at 2/1 by Bet365. Denmark are marginal 17/10 favourites, while a draw is priced at 21/10.
Neither side has made a pretence to play down the importance of this fixture, with the widely accepted logic that is, in the words of Christian Eriksen, a “final”.
“It all depends on the first game,” he said, referring to the Nations League double header for the Danes that concludes with a match against Ireland on November 19. “To have a chance to qualify we need some points from this game and not to give Wales the win in the group.
“The aim will be to win this first group and then try and go as far as possible and get a place secure for the Euros.
“Being in Group A would be fun against some even bigger teams which will be more difficult.”
Denmark have shown themselves to be well capable of competing among the best in recent times. Only a contract dispute that saw an amateur team take to the field in a 3-0 friendly defeat against Slovakia stands as a blot on a copybook that has seen them piece together a national record undefeated run.
Included in those matches are fixtures against World Cup winners France, with whom they drew 0-0 in a dead rubber at Russia 2018, and Croatia, who knocked them out of the tournament only on penalties.
The task for Ryan Giggs’ side is, therefore, a stern one. The former Manchester United star knows too well the hurt of losing vital matches from his playing days – and he is not keen for another sample as he begins his managerial career.
“The ones I lost, they stand out more than the ones I won,” he said, reflecting on past finals.
“The Champions League final win in 1999 at Nou Camp was amazing - the best feeling I've ever had on a football pitch.
“But in 1995, losing against Everton in the FA Cup final, was one of the biggest disappointments of my life.”
He is acutely aware of the importance of Friday’s match in Cardiff.
“There's lots of incentives to top the group,” he explained. “First of all, to actually win a really competitive group would be great. Then you get a second bite of the cherry with regards to qualifying for the Euros if you don't qualify automatically - and it has an effect on the seedings come the Euro draw as well.
“We started off wanting to win, it's a new tournament, we wanted to win the first one, the first Nations League, and it's in our hands now.”