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Poland v Wales - Nations League: Preview

A third Nations League cycle rolls around as Wales, hopeful of securing their World Cup return later this week, warm up against a Poland side with designs on reaching the knockout stage of a major tournament for only the second time since 1986.

Fifteen editions of football's flagship tournament have been and gone since the Dragons' last appearance and, while Wednesday's clash in Wroclaw will in no way have any influence on the journey to Qatar, a win at 4/1 would see Rob Page's men out of the blocks with pace as they aim for an appearance at Euro 2024 in Germany.

History, however, favours the hosts - Poland have won each of the last four meetings between the two by a one-goal margin of victory and a repeat of this outcome can be backed at 12/5.

Among the elites for the first time

Wales' reward for an unbeaten stand in the 2020/21 Nations League tournament is the opportunity to rub shoulders with the continent's finest.

Having topped Group B4 following five wins and a draw - pairs of victories over Finland and Bulgaria, as well as a home win and a 0-0 stalemate against the Republic of Ireland - Page and co. have advanced to the upper tier of the competition - pitted against Belgium and the Netherlands in Group A4, as well as this week's hosts.

As ever, the highest-placed team after six home-and-away ties will progress to next summer’s final-four phase, with Wales and each of their group counterparts having applied to stage the spectacle.

Pressure on Poles to prove their worth

Back-door qualification for the World Cup via a play-off win over Sweden may have served to allay concerns harboured by many Polish fans about their team's credentials.

Nevertheless, an underwhelming showing in Group A1 last time out leaves ample room for improvement; Robert Lewandowski and his comrades won just two of their six fixtures last term - both against relegated Bosnia and Herzegovina - with a home draw with group-topping Italy the only further point to show for their efforts.

Such form has impacted heavily on their odds of reaching the finals; they stand third in line at 9/1 to top the group.

After two defeats to the Netherlands in 2020/21, coach Czeslaw Michniewicz - appointed earlier this year to oversee the Qatar play-off campaign - will see the Wales clash as a potential springboard, allowing his side to enter the coming match-ups with Belgium and the Dutch on firm footing.

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Fresh Bale could make the difference

Welsh fans may take encouragement from the fact that Gareth Bale's Champions League final was spent entirely on the Real Madrid bench on Saturday.

In theory, the talismanic 32-year-old should be in line for a role following his rest in Paris - and a goal for the Madrid man at any time is available at 12/5.

However, Page will be aware of the need to strike a balance between a strong start in a tricky Nations League campaign, the injection of minutes into the legs of key players and the importance of a fully available playing staff for the weekend's all-important World Cup play-off.

Daniel James, Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen are all understood to be possible starters, while Oliver Denham and Wes Burns are eyeing a first cap.

Brennan Johnson and Sorba Thomas join up with the unit having faced each other at Wembley in Sunday's Championship play-off final, but Wednesday night may come too soon for the pair.

Poles to cash in on experience

His future at club-level may be the subject of uncertainty and discussion, but Robert Lewandowski's central role as Poland's main outlet is not up for debate.

The 75-goal striker, due to depart Bayern Munich this summer, is again set to lead from the front for Michniewicz and the frontman is 13/5 to find the net first.

Kamil Glik, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Piotr Zielinski - whose goal sealed his side's progress to Qatar in March - should join him among the Polish ranks.

Aston Villa wing -back Matty Cash is vying for a fifth international appearance since pledging allegiance to the Eagles last year.

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