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The key talking points ahead of Wales’ Nations League clash with Poland

Wales and Poland are set to renew rivalries in the Nations League on Sunday with relegation at stake (Rafal Oleksiewicz/PA)
Wales and Poland are set to renew rivalries in the Nations League on Sunday with relegation at stake (Rafal Oleksiewicz/PA)

Wales meet Poland in a Nations League relegation decider on Sunday.

The Dragons must win to stay in the top tier of European football and send Poland down to League B.

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

World Cup send-off

Wales v Belgium – FIFA World Cup 2022 – European Qualifying – Group E – Cardiff City Stadium
Wales fans are set to give their team a World Cup send-off in Cardiff on Sunday (David Davies/PA)

Wales fans hope to see their team go to the World Cup on a high by keeping their place at the top table of European football. Although Wales’ second appearance at a World Cup – and first for 64 years – is less than two months away, manager Robert Page has stressed the value of playing the continent’s best teams in the Nations League. Page has been able to expose young players to top-level opposition, and believes his squad will benefit from that at the World Cup in Qatar and beyond.

Bale call

Belgium v Wales – UEFA Nations League – Group D – King Baudouin Stadium
Wales captain Gareth Bale came on as a second-half substitute against Belgium on Thursday (Tim Goode/PA)

Captain Gareth Bale came on as a 64th-minute substitute in Wales’ 2-1 defeat to Belgium on Thursday. Bale called it a “wise” decision after he had arrived late into the Wales camp from his American base in Los Angeles and was still suffering the effects of jet lag. The 33-year-old is building up his fitness ahead of the World Cup, with his MLS game time being carefully managed. But it seems likely Wales’ talisman will play from the start in Cardiff with so much on the line.

Squad stretched

Belgium v Wales – UEFA Nations League – Group D – King Baudouin Stadium
Ethan Ampadu misses the Poland game through suspension (Tim Goode/PA)

Wales were thin on numbers before the Belgium loss with Aaron Ramsey, Ben Davies, Harry Wilson and Joe Allen absent through injury. Chris Mepham and Ethan Ampadu are also unavailable against Poland after picking up their second yellow cards of the competition. Chris Gunter or Ben Cabango seem likely to be drafted into the back-line on Sunday, with Joe Morrell a probable starter in midfield.

Polish threat

Poland v England – FIFA World Cup 2022 – European Qualifying – Group I – PGE Narodowy Stadium
Robert Lewandowski has scored 76 goals in 133 games for Poland (Rafal Oleksiewicz/PA)

Poland were unable to build on their opening-day Nations League win against Wales and were hammered 6-1 in Belgium. But they did hold group leaders the Netherlands to a 2-2 draw in Rotterdam, and in Barcelona striker Robert Lewandowski have an undoubted world star. Lewandowski has scored over 600 times for club and country, and his 76 goals in 133 Poland appearances puts him third on the men’s scoring list in Europe behind Ferenc Puskas and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Losing streak

Poland v Wales – UEFA Nations League – Group A4 – Wroclaw Stadium
Wales players are dejected after conceding during their 2-1 Nations League defeat to Poland in June (Rafal Oleksiewicz/PA)

Wales suffered a fifth straight defeat to Poland in June as late goals from substitutes Jakub Kaminski and Karol Swiderski gave the hosts a 2-1 Nations League win in Wroclaw. Jonny Williams had earlier put Wales ahead. Wales’ solitary win in nine games against Poland came in their maiden meeting in March 1973. Leighton James and Trevor Hockey scored as Wales won a World Cup qualifier 2-0. Poland won the Katowice return 3-0, and there were two goalless draws before Wales’ current losing streak.