Wales welcome Georgia to the Cardiff City Stadium in their third World Cup 2018 Qualifying fixture on Sunday evening. Chris Coleman’s men have begun the qualifying campaign in positive fashion, beating Moldova 4-0 and drawing 2-2 against Austria. Meanwhile, Georgia have lost both of their opening games. A Welsh win would likely see them maintain their position at the top of Group D due to their healthy goal difference.
After their stunning Euro 2016 performance, in which they reached the semi-final, Wales picked up where they left off with a convincing win over Moldova. Sam Vokes, Joe Allen and Gareth Bale (2) scored the goals as Wales strolled to victory.
Against Austria on Thursday night, they were faced with a much tougher task. A 25-yard Allen volley and a Kevin Wimmer own goal twice put Wales ahead, but Marko Arnautovic scored two fine goals in reply.
In Wales’ Euro 2016 Qualifying campaign, it was their stern defence that saw them through. But in Vienna, they found themselves wide open on occasion. Arnautovic continually drifted in from his natural left-wing position into a centre-forward role, causing confusion between Wales’ backline. James Chester’s failure to track his run allowed the Stoke winger to nod home his first equaliser, before his sloppy control of an Allen pass led to Arnautovic’s second of the game early in the second half.
While unusually vulnerable at the back, Wales again showed their dynamism going forward, even without the injured Aaron Ramsey. They also displayed yet another weapon at their disposal in Bale’s long throw. Wimmer’s own goal came as a direct result of a Bale throw-in and Neil Taylor highlighted its effectiveness after the game.
Georgia, meanwhile, have failed to yet pick up a point, though they have only lost by the odd goal in both games so far. Ranked 137th in the world, they are proving not to be the pushovers many had assumed. Austria edged them out 2-1 in the opening round of fixtures and Ireland had to be patient before Seamus Coleman made the breakthrough on Thursday.
Georgia themselves posed a threat, hitting the woodwork a number of times throughout the 90 minutes. The East European minnows also recorded a 1-0 win over Spain in June as the Spaniards prepared for Euro 2016.
Wales will be without Allen, who has now scored two in two for Wales, and three in three for club and country. The Stoke midfielder was forced off with a hamstring injury on Thursday evening and will not be risked.
David Edwards is expected to replace Allen, but it is unlikely there will be any other changes to the team that started in Austria.
Georgia are likely to pick the same side that started against Ireland with no new injury concerns reported.
The form book and their respective standings in the FIFA World Rankings suggest a comfortable win for Wales. Yet, Georgia have won all three of their previous meetings, including a 2-1 win in 2008. Wales have only ever scored once, while conceding eight times.
Despite the poor historical record, and the absence of Allen and Ramsey, Wales should have enough to see off the visitors and maintain their strong start to the qualifying campaign.