MARTIN KEOWN: Gareth Bale knows how to pick his moments and has been heroic for Wales for a number of years and a shake-up is expected from Gareth Southgate… could Phil Foden start in attack?
England are ready to take on Wales in a crucial Group B clash on Tuesday night that is set to decide the World Cup fates of both sides.
England are already as good as qualified, while anything but a comprehensive win for Rob Page’s side will bring an end to their first World Cup campaign since 1958.
Here Sportsmail’s MARTIN KEOWN takes a look at the ‘Battle of Britain’ in closer detail and assesses the tactical tweaks both sides may make.
Gareth Southgate is set to make changes to the side that drew 0-0 with USA on Friday night
Bale knows he has to pick his moments
Gareth Bale has been heroic for Wales over the years. But surely Tuesday night it is asking too much, even of him, to rescue his country’s World Cup fortunes.
Wales either need to defeat England by four goals, which looks like mission impossible, or they need to win by a smaller margin and hope USA v Iran ends in a draw.
Beating England will not be easy because Bale’s impact at this tournament has been limited. He came to Qatar hoping to be Wales’ hero, but his fitness has not looked anywhere near the level required.
Gareth Bale has been Welsh football’s hero for years but he is not the player he once was
He has been used sparingly for Los Angeles FC in MLS this year. Indeed, the 33-year-old’s last full 90 minutes in club football came in January 2021 – for Tottenham against Wycombe in the FA Cup.
This final group game represents one last chance for Bale, and Wales’ other outstanding servant Aaron Ramsey, to do something special.
England will want to dominate possession, and Rob Page’s side may look for chances to counter-attack, but Bale’s pace is not what it once was. He is going to have to pick and choose when he can commit.
Bale and Ramsey have been instrumental in Wales making it to three of the last four major tournaments. Bale in particular will go down as one of the best British players ever. He will be desperate to give the world one last glimpse of his extraordinary ability against England.
Kieffer Moore (middle) could provide Rob Page’s men with a focal point up front in attack
I’m expecting a Southgate shake-up…
We’ve been here before, haven’t we?
England’s 0-0 draw with Scotland at Euro 2020 was a deflating night. After that stalemate, critics asked whether Gareth Southgate’s side could really win that tournament. Well, we got incredibly close, losing on penalties in the final.
I don’t think there was any cause to be alarmed by England’s 0-0 draw with a talented USA team.
There is always one group game that doesn’t go your way.
I expect Southgate will have been tempted to make changes for this final group match against Wales – in system and selection.
Southgate’s substitutions have long come under fire during his time as England manager
The decision to bring Jordan Henderson off the bench against USA also received backlash
I could see England moving to a back three, enabling Southgate to take a look at a set-up we know he likes. I could also see this being used as an opportunity to rest key players. Southgate may be tempted to manage Harry Maguire’s workload.
Maguire was magnificent against the USA, heading clear cross after cross, and one assumes Wales’ game plan will be to hit long balls to 6ft5in Kieffer Moore.
Harry Maguire performed well on Friday but could benefit from a night off
But Maguire has not had many minutes this season – the last time he played back-to-back 90s for England, he picked up a hamstring injury – and he could benefit from a night off.
Kyle Walker could come into a back three for his first action in this World Cup, while Southgate has other defensive options in Eric Dier, Conor Coady and Ben White he can call upon.
The experienced Jordan Henderson could come into midfield. Phil Foden or Jack Grealish may also start in attack. It is healthy to shake things up, especially given England are as good as qualified.
At the 2018 World Cup, Southgate made eight changes for the final group game against Belgium.
I don’t expect that many tweaks on Tuesday night, but I do think this is an opportunity for Southgate to use his talented squad members and show the belief he has in his players.