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Wales start their campaign against Switzerland in Baku on Saturday and Gareth Bale insists his side are under no pressure to match their results from 2016.

Bale became a national hero when leading his country to a semi-final in 2016.

Bale is one of eight survivors from the Wales squad that reached the last four in France when Chris Coleman was in charge, and the Real Madrid star is looking no further than the crunch first game against the Swiss – a game being played in far away Baku.

The reason to watch
It should be an intriguing tactical battle between the two sides.

Switzerland are likely to play a 3-4-1-2 formation as they try to build up from the back and drag their opponents further up the pitch. Meanwhile, one can expect Wales to line up defensively and try to hit their rivals on the counter.

And, of course, there is always Gareth Bale. While his superpowers might have slightly waned in club football over the last two seasons, the 31-year-old is still the dominant force in Wales’ side.

“I think it’s similar,” said Bale when asked at his pre-match press conference about Wales’ expectations heading into Euro 2020 compared to last time out.

Number one stat
Switzerland have won six games in a row and held Spain to a 1-1 draw ahead of that run, which stretches back to last November.

Our prediction
We’re a cautious bunch over here at The Athletic HQ: 51% of our newsroom has predicted this match to end up a draw. A Wales win is narrowly favoured by the remaining 49%.

Wales have had a difficult build-up to Euro 2020 off the pitch with manager Ryan Giggs on leave, as he has been since November, and Robert Page in interim charge.

Page has won four of his eight games at the helm – the only defeats coming against the world’s top two ranked teams Belgium and France – while Gareth Bale is without a goal in 11 international games.

A disappointing 2020 for Switzerland, winning no games on the field and one by default when Ukraine had a virus outbreak, has given way to a better 2021 so far with five wins from five games, though without facing top-level opponents.


Goalkeepers: Adam Davies, Wayne Hennessey, Danny Ward

Defenders: Ethan Ampadu, Ben Cabango, Ben Davies, Chris Gunter, Tom Lockyer, Chris Mepham, Rhys Norrington-Davies, Connor Roberts, Joe Rodon, Neco Williams

Midfielders: Joe Allen, David Brooks, Rubin Colwill, Daniel James, Dylan Levitt, Joe Morrell, Aaron Ramsey, Matthew Smith, Jonny Williams, Harry Wilson

Forwards: Gareth Bale, Kieffer Moore, Tyler Roberts.