I’m lucky not to be banned for Croatia clash, admits Bale

By Phil Blanche, PA

Gareth Bale admits he is lucky to be playing in Wales’ vital Euro 2020 qualifier against Croatia after fearing being sent off in Slovakia on Thursday.

Bale had already been booked when he sent Slovakia defender Milan Skriniar crashing to the ground in the closing stages of the 1-1 draw in Trnava.

The Real Madrid forward was maybe spared a red card as he was also hurt in the collision and spent a couple of minutes needing treatment.

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Gareth Bale says he has no fitness concerns ahead of the Croatia clash (Tim Goode/PA).
Gareth Bale says he has no fitness concerns ahead of the Croatia clash (Tim Goode/PA).

“I’m fit and I’m fine, it was just a knock on the knee and a bit of ice has sorted that out,” Bale said ahead of the Cardiff clash with World Cup finalists Croatia.

“I was more worried about getting sent off to be honest. I was just happy to get away with that one!

“But saying that, I didn’t think the first one deserved a yellow, so maybe it evened itself out.”

Bale’s second yellow card of Euro 2020 qualifying means another booking would see him suspended.

Wales, who trail Group E leaders Croatia by six points and are three adrift of second-placed Slovakia, with a game in hand on both, finish their campaign with November games against Azerbaijan and Hungary.

“I can’t make too many silly tackles, I have to be mindful of that,” Bale said.

“I don’t want to miss any games for Wales, especially at the crunch time of the group.

“So I have to be clever with what I’m doing, but maybe expect someone’s going to rile me to get me suspended.

“I’m experienced enough to get through the period without picking up another booking.”

Gareth Bale will be up against his Real Madrid team-mate Luka Modric when Wales face Croatia (Joe Giddens/PA).
Gareth Bale will be up against his Real Madrid team-mate Luka Modric when Wales face Croatia (Joe Giddens/PA).

Wales and Croatia have been familiar foes in recent qualifying campaigns, with the Dragons never having won in five previous encounters.

Croatia have often edged games by the odd goal and Bale admits he would love to beat his Real team-mate Luka Modric.

“We know each quite well, as we’ve played together for a long time in Tottenham and Real Madrid, and it would be nice to get one over on him finally,” he said.

“We’ve not spoken yet, maybe there will be a little message later on.

Croatia celebrate victory over Wales in June (Adam Davy/PA).
Croatia celebrate victory over Wales in June (Adam Davy/PA).

“They’ve beaten us a few times in the past, but it’s always been a tight game between us.

“We know what a great team they are. They had a great World Cup and shown year after year how good they are.

“But playing at home gives us an advantage and we’ve had some great results against some big teams in our stadium.

“It’s nice to have the experience and know-how of how to do it.”

Wales will make a late decision on Aaron Ramsey’s fitness.

Aaron Ramsey faces a race to be fit (Nick Potts/PA).
Aaron Ramsey faces a race to be fit (Nick Potts/PA).

The Juventus midfielder, who is yet to feature in Wales’ Euro 2020 qualifying campaign because of injury, has a thigh problem and trained on his own on Saturday away from the main group.

“We have not ruled Aaron out,” said manager Ryan Giggs.

“He’s on a different schedule, he didn’t travel to Slovakia with the team and stayed back with the physio.

“So we’re just giving him all the time we can and (will) see how is in the morning (on Sunday).”

Wigan forward Kieffer Moore, who scored against Slovakia on his first competitive appearance for Wales, is likely to start after suffering a cut head in Trnava.

Ethan Ampadu and Jonny Williams are also available after coming off in the second half in Slovakia.

But Giggs says he has to recognise that he may have to “freshen things up” with only a three-day turnaround between fixtures.

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