Guest blogger Pete South takes a look at the forthcoming Euro 2012 qualifier with our local rivals…
Online sports betting pundits will be aware that Englandâ€™s goal of qualifying for the European Championships in 2012 will get under way in earnest next month as they come up against their toughest challenge.
The Welsh, in another stage of transition, wonâ€™t offer the same resistance as Montenegro did in their last qualifier on the pitch, where a 1-1 draw was all they could muster, but their secret weapon is loaded and ready to fire.
Those studying sportsbook onlineÂ note how Â a packed Millennium Stadium will be an intimidating obstacle for Fabio Capelloâ€™s men to overcome as they look to finally put their failed World Cup campaign behind them. Â Martin Johnsonâ€™s rugby team recently experienced the full force of the Welsh crowd, and Capello could do worse than making a quick phone call to find out what to expect.
â€œBeing an Englishman this weekend in Cardiff means you aren’t the most popularâ€ Johnson said after the game, and it is something their footballing counterparts will have to contend with.
But, England not only need to overcome the partisan Welsh crowd, but excel on the pitch.
The Italian will know a successful wonâ€™t be enough this time around to convince the nation that they are a side ready to win the competition, fingers have been burned from last time around. No, they must offer more than just winning if they are to win over English supporters.
The signs are good however. Their 2-1 friendly win against Denmark earlier this month represented a shift in attitude towards the much maligned friendly. Despite the constant switch of captains and a steady flow of substitutions, England achieved what most thought impossible â€“ they managed to take some positives away from the game.
Denmark were a genuine test. If not the most technically gifted they pressured England and put together some fluent attacks, mostly through the gifted Christian Erikson. But the emergence of Jack Wilshere and Ashley Youngâ€™s success in a central role means Capello has genuine variation in his attack for the remainder of the qualification games, something which was lacking previously. If the form of Wayne Rooney is still a worry for the former Juventus boss, then the goal scoring prowess of Darren Bent and his connection with Villa team-mate Young will appease him somewhat.
New Welsh manager Gary Speed faces his first home match in charge against possibly the toughest task he will face as Welsh manager. Three losses from their first three matches, which spelt the end for previous manager John Toshack, mean their chances of qualification are all but over. England will have to be mindful of a Welsh side with only one thing to play for, one thing they care most about. Beating the English.