What was billed as an exciting “Battle of Britain” when the World Cup qualifying draw was made has now become a case of last chance saloon for both Wales and Scotland. With both sides without a victory in their opening two qualifiers, they know that a win is needed in Cardiff to maintain any chance of making it to Brazil.
In truth, even a victory for Wales is unlikely to give few fans hope that they can mount a serious challenge for even a playoff spot. Playing for pride is now foremost in their minds.
For manager Chris Coleman, another disappointing result is likely to heap huge pressure on his position, despite having only taken charge at the beginning of the year. But having been appointed following the tragic death of former boss Gary Speed, Coleman has lost his first four games in charge. No Wales boss has ever lost their first five.
Matters reached a new low last time out as Wales suffered a humiliating 6-1 defeat to Serbia. The modicum of comfort being that Wales scored the first goal of the Coleman era.
The former Fulham boss has tried to shake things up in the buildup to the clash with Scotland by taking the captaincy off of Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey and handing it to Swansea defender Ashley Williams.
Things are not going much better for Coleman’s opposite number on Friday, Craig Levein. While an opening home draw with Serbia wasn’t a cause for alarm, the same outcome when they hosted Macedonia three days later certainly was.
The pressure is now mounting on the former Leicester and Dundee United boss and he has responded by brining Steven Fletcher back into the fold. The striker has been in exile for almost two years due to a bust-up with Levein, but his prolific form at Sunderland has made him all but impossible to ignore.
Equally positive news is the inclusion of Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher following his return to action with Manchester United after almost a year out battling a chronic bowel condition.
D: Matthews, Williams, Nyatanga, Gunter
M: Ledley, Allen, Ramsey, Bale
F: Morison, Vokes
D: Hutton, Caldwell, Berra, Mulgrew
M: D. Fletcher, Adam,
Morrison , Brown, S. Fletcher
Prediction: Both sides are likely to be low on confidence heading in their meeting at the Cardiff City Stadium. Welsh morale may be suffering even more than their opponents, however. It is difficult to see how Coleman’s decision to take the captaincy off Ramsey will aid the mood around the squad in any way.
With Scotland still having the potential to get back into the qualifying picture with a win and boosted by the return of the two Fletchers, Scotland should get the win.
Wales 1-2 Scotland
Where to watch: The World Cup qualifier kicks-off in Cardiff at 2.45 p.m. ET. A live stream, which you view at your own discretion, will be available here.