Stubborn Welsh value for victory in Haifa
Israel are the surprise early leaders of Group B with a perfect three-out-of-three record so far so their next match against Wales has taken on plenty of significance.
The Welsh are also unbeaten in qualifying to date and there are high hopes that Chris Coleman’s squad, who don’t concede many nowadays, can finally get over the line and make the finals of a major tournament for the first time in more than 50 years.
Coleman appears to have found a settled side and a team capable of competing at a decent level. Gareth Bale is, of course, his key man but he’s been playing in a fairly unfamiliar central position in qualifying to date.
Perhaps the return to fitness of Sam Vokes will give the Real Madrid star more of a free role, though the Burnley striker has had little game time this season.
Hull defender James Chester has formed a good relationship with Wales’ captain Ashley Williams at the centre of the Wales defence but is not available for this one having undergone surgey on a damaged shoulder. West Ham’s James Collins is his obvious replacement.
If Wales are serious about qualification, they have to get a result at the Itztadion Sammy Ofer but it won’t be easy. Eli Gutman’s team have already beaten Bosnia-Herzogovina 3-0 in Haifa and have won in Cyprus and Andorra.
Much-travelled Charlton defender Tal Ben Haim leads a side that could also include Celtic’s Nir Bitton but former Chelsea striker Ben Sahar has only been on the fringes of the team lately.
Austria Wien’s Omer Damari, with four goals in his last two internationals, could be the main threat to the Wales defence as he’s averaged a goal every two games since breaking into the senior side and is 15/8 to be an anytime scorer this Saturday.
Wales produced a terrific performance last time to draw with Belgium in Brussels and have given themselves real hope of qualifying. This will be another tough test but they have the talent, especially in midfield, to upset the Israelis if they apply themselves and look value at 17/5 to grab a narrow win.
The Welsh to win by one goal is 23/5.
The Group B clash kicks off at 5.00pm on Saturday, March 28 at the Itztadion Sammy Ofer, Haifa.