Sports Mole previews Saturday’s Euro Champ Qualifying clash between Armenia and Wales, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Following successive wins in Group D, Wales have their Euro 2024 qualifying fate in their own hands as they visit Armenia on Saturday, when victory will put them within three points of reaching next summer’s finals.
Having pulled off a superb defeat of group favourites Croatia last time out, the Dragons now aim to avenge a humbling home loss to Armenia earlier in the process – their hosts, meanwhile, also remain in contention.
With wins over rock-bottom Latvia and – far more impressively – recent World Cup bronze medallists Croatia, resurgent Wales took a huge step towards their third straight European Championship finals appearance last month.
On a memorable night in Cardiff, Rob Page‘s side ran out 2-1 winners thanks to a Harry Wilson brace, and the Dragons can now qualify directly for Germany 2024 by beating Armenia and Turkey in their final two fixtures.
Reaching a fourth major tournament from five would be quite an achievement, and as they sit level on points with their Croatian counterparts and boast a superior head-to-head record, they are now in pole position to join Group D leaders Turkey in the top two.
In fact, Wales will bypass a potential playoff and seal qualification this week if they turn over Armenia and Croatia lose to Latvia, although the latter outcome is particularly improbable.
Having never featured at a Euro finals until 2016, another summer spent amid Europe’s elite is now within reach – which is a sharp change in fortunes after damaging back-to-back qualifying defeats in June had followed a below-par performance at last year’s World Cup.
Losing 4-2 to Armenia in a frenetic encounter at Cardiff City Stadium had even caused some to question Page’s future as national boss, but he will now be keen to capitalise on his squad’s upswing in momentum.
Having stunned Wales with a volleyed opener from Lucas Zelaryan, before going on to leave the Welsh capital with all three points, Armenia moved into contention for a first-ever major finals appearance during the summer – and in quite some style.
Zelaryan scored again during the second half and Grant-Leon Ranos also helped himself to a brace, as a nation ranked 71 places below their hosts in FIFA’s world rankings celebrated a landmark success.
Head coach Oleksandr Petrakov – who saw his Ukraine team beaten by Wales in a World Cup playoff last year – will need to engineer another famous result in Yerevan this weekend, as Armenia have since lost two of their next four qualifiers to fall slightly off the pace.
The former Soviet nation slipped up badly last month, failing to increase their tally of seven points after suffering a shock defeat to lowly Latvia, who were still without a single point at that stage: a goal either side of the interval downed Petrakov’s side in Riga, where they were unable to respond despite playing the latter stages with a one-man advantage.
As a result, Armenia will now be unable to finish inside the all-important top two if they lose again on Saturday – or even if they draw and next week’s opponents Croatia claim maximum points.
Armenia Euro Champ Qualifying form:
Armenia form (all competitions):
Wales Euro Champ Qualifying form:
Wales form (all competitions):
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Having recently returned to first-team action for Tottenham Hotspur, quicksilver striker Brennan Johnson is back in the Wales squad after missing October’s camp due to a hamstring injury. Captain Aaron Ramsey remains absent, though, so Johnson’s Spurs teammate Ben Davies retains the captain’s armband.
Elsewhere, Joe Morrell returns to the fold following suspension, and Rob Page has called up former England Under-21 international full-back Jay Dasilva for the first time, as well as Sunderland defender Niall Huggins.
If selected to lead the Welsh forward line, Kieffer Moore will hope to redeem himself after being dismissed for an off-the-ball clash with Armenia goalkeeper Ognjen Cancarevic in June’s reverse fixture.
The hosts, meanwhile, will naturally revert to their strongest available XI after making several changes in a 3-1 friendly defeat to North Macedonia last time out.
Leaning heavily on a widespread Armenian diaspora, Oleksandr Petrakov has again included players such as Argentina-born pair Lucas Zelarayan and Norberto Briasco, alongside Sweden-born defender Andre Calisir and midfielder Ugochukwu Iwu – originally from Nigeria.
Slovan Bratislava winger Tigran Barseghyan is the Armenians’ leading active scorer with nine goals and should start in support of Zelarayan up front.
Armenia possible starting lineup:
Cancarevic; Calisir, Arutyunyan, Mkrtchyan; Dashyan, Iwu, Spertsyan, Tiknizyan; Briasco, Barseghyan; Zelarayan
Wales possible starting lineup:
Ward; Mepham, Rodon, Davies; Roberts, J. James, Ampadu, Williams; Johnson, Wilson; Moore
We say: Armenia 1-2 Wales
Although they are right back in the mix for automatic qualification, Wales will not take anything for granted at Vazgen Sargsyan Republican Stadium. Matching the high of last month’s heroics against Croatia may be a tall task, but the Dragons can still slay their tricky hosts by the slimmest of margins.
For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.