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Fitness fears and familiar foes – talking points ahead of Wales v Belgium

Wales and Belgium drew 1-1 in 2022 World Cup qualification in November (David Davies/PA)
Wales and Belgium drew 1-1 in 2022 World Cup qualification in November (David Davies/PA)

Wales continue their top-tier Nations League campaign against Belgium in Cardiff on Saturday.

Robert Page’s side have lost their opening two games against Poland and Holland, while Belgium have picked up three points so far.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the main talking points surrounding the Cardiff City Stadium clash.

Bale shadow

Wales v Netherlands – UEFA Nations League – Group A4 – Cardiff City Stadium
Gareth Bale’s club future remains up in the air (Zac Goodwin/PA)

With Wales having secured qualification for the World Cup for the first time in 64 years, there has been feverish speculation over Gareth Bale’s future. Bale finished his nine-year spell at Real Madrid with a fifth Champions League winner’s medal and is now in need of a new club before November’s World Cup. Football Association of Wales boss Noel Mooney has welcomed reports linking Bale to hometown club Cardiff, saying: “We’d be delighted to see more of him.”

Goalkeeper crisis

Wales Training and Press Conference – Principality Stadium
Wales’ third-choice goalkeeper Adam Davies, left, is on standby to start against Belgium with fitness doubts over Danny Ward, centre, and Wayne Hennessey, right, (Nick Potts/PA)

Wales have been plunged into a goalkeeping crisis with fitness concerns over Wayne Hennessey and Danny Ward. After his World Cup play-off final heroics against Ukraine, Hennessey missed Wednesday’s defeat to Holland through injury. Ward was forced off against the Dutch at half-time and replaced by third-choice ‘keeper Adam Davies, who could now make his first start. Salford’s Tom King has joined the squad as cover.

Fortress breached

Wales v Netherlands – UEFA Nations League – Group A4 – Cardiff City Stadium
Dejected manager Robert Page applauds the fans after Wales’ 2-1 home defeat to Holland (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Wales’ proud unbeaten home record fell in the 94th minute against Holland as Wout Weghorst’s header gave the visitors a 2-1 win. Wales had not lost at home since November 2018, a 19-game unbeaten run their longest on Welsh soil. It does not get any easier for Wales with Belgium second in the men’s FIFA rankings. Even at this early stage of the competition, it looks like a battle between Poland and Wales to avoid relegation to League B.

Brilliant Belgium

Belgium bounced back from their shock 4-1 Nations League home defeat to Holland to hit Poland for six on Wednesday. Robert Lewandowski put Poland ahead before Axel Witsel equalised. It was one-way traffic after the break as Leandro Trossard struck twice, with Kevin De Bruyne, Leander Dendoncker and Luis Openda also on target. Red Devils boss Roberto Martinez continues to have a huge array of talent at his disposal.

Familiar foes

Wales and Belgium have met regularly in recent times. This will be their eighth meeting in the last decade with the score even – two wins apiece and three draws. Wales’ wins came in Euro 2016 qualification, Bale scoring the winner on an electric night in Cardiff, and the quarter-final of that tournament itself, 3-1 in Lille. The two sides drew 1-1 in World Cup qualification in November when Kieffer Moore cancelled out De Bruyne’s early strike.