Wales vs Slovakia

, , KO: 14:00 Mar 24, 2019, Cardiff City Stadium

WALES were the darlings of Euro 2016 with Gareth Bale and Co coming so close to claiming a shock place in the final.

But their hopes of reaching the next European Championships could suffer a savage blow if they lose their qualifying opener at home to Slovakia.

After coming second behind Denmark in their Nations League group, the safety net of a play-off place doesn't exist for Ryan Giggs' side.

And with World Cup semi-finalists Croatia the favourites to top Group E in Euro qualifying, it means the Welsh are probably in a straight scrap with Slovakia to finish second.

That means the first game in the section could be the most critical of the whole campaign, with defeat leaving the Welsh with a huge mountain to climb.

Giggs' side were far from convincing in the friendly win over Trinidad and Tobago on Wednesday night, needing a stoppage-time goal from Ben Woodburn to claim a 1-0 victory in Wrexham.

But the Welsh boss rested almost his entire first team and the return of the big hitters should ensure an improved display against the Slovaks.

Ethan Ampadu, Sam Vokes and Tom Lawrence have been ruled out through injury and there was another big blow for Giggs on the eve of the game when Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey was also ruled out.

But talisman Bale heads into the game in a better frame of mind after Zinedine Zidane's return to Real Madrid saw him brought in from the cold.

The forward was restored to the starting line-up for Zidane's first game back and responded with the clinching goal in a 2-0 win over Celta Vigo.

Although Slovakia finished bottom of a pretty average Nations League group that included Ukraine and the Czech Republic, they remain a dangerous side.

Midfielder Marek Hamsik is a proven world-class operator while the likes of Robert Mak and Stanislav Lobotka can also cause Wales trouble.

Slovakia's biggest problem is the lack of a quality centre-forward. The fact Pavel Safranko, who is plying his trade with Dundee United in Scotland's second tier, has earned a call-up tells you everything you need to know about their lack of punch up front.

Famagusta's Michal Duris is the only other out-and-out centre forward in their squad, although winger Mak has been pushed up top before.

Despite seeming to lack firepower, the Slovaks did thump Ukraine 4-1 in the Nations League so Wales will need to be wary.

But Slovakia drew blanks in both their Nations League away days and that makes me think the Welsh might just edge this one.

They are 61/50 with Marathonbet and the odds increase to 11/5 with Bet 365 if you double it with a clean sheet.

As always, Bale will be the main threat and I'm surprised the Real Madrid star isn't odds-on in the anytime scorer market. He's 6/4 with Paddy Power and that looks great value, despite his poor season at the Bernabeu, as he always seems to come to life in a red shirt.

I can't see there being too many goals in this one but the odds are terrible, with under 2.5 strikes a best 21/40 with Bet365. Instead, try a one-goal winning margin for either side which is 6/5 with Betway.

This , match between Wales and Slovakia will be played on Mar 24, 2019 and kick off at 14:00. Check below for our tipsters best Wales vs Slovakia prediction. You may also visit our dedicated betting previews section for the most up to date previews.

Wales vs Slovakia Betting Tips & Predictions
Wales to win
Gareth Bale anytime scorer
One-goal winning margin

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