Saturday 21 April 2018

Gareth Bale set to be fit for crunch World Cup qualifier against Ireland

Gareth Bale and (inset) Martin O'Neill
Gareth Bale and (inset) Martin O'Neill

Luke Edwards

Gareth Bale is set for a return to action for Real Madrid in March, which will mean he should be able to play in Wales’ crucial World Cup qualifier against the Republic of Ireland later that month.

Bale was initially expected to be missing for four months with an ankle injury, which would have sidelined him until April, but sources have told Telegraph Sport that the 27-year-old is recovering far quicker than doctor’s anticipated.

That tallies with comments from Wales boss Chris Coleman earlier this week in which he said he was “keeping his fingers” crossed regarding the former Tottenham Hotspur player’s availability for the next round of international fixtures.

Coleman has privately told people that he is confident Bale will be fit for the game against Ireland on March 24th, although he has been more cautious in public.

Bale has always hoped he would be able to play for Wales in Dublin, as the game is so important to their hopes of qualifying for the World Cup and is it is understood he has indicated to Coleman that he will make the trip.

Whether Real Madrid are happy about his determination to play for his country after such a lengthy absence remains to be seen, but if he has played for his club, there is nothing they can do to prevent Wales from naming him in their squad.

Bale suffered his injury playing for Real in the Champions League against Sporting Lisbon and having nursed him back to fitness, following an operation, they will be concerned if their most expensive player is rushing back too quickly in order to help Wales.

The game against Ireland, though, is a pivotal one and is the biggest test Wales have had to pass since their wonderful European Championship campaign in France.

Despite starting the campaign as one of the unfancied sides in Group D, Ireland, led by manager Martin O’Neill, are top of the group, four points clear of Wales, who have failed to impress. 

A win for the Irish in front of their own supporters would give them a seven-point lead over Coleman’s men at the halfway stage on the road to Russia. Three of Ireland’s remaining five games would then be at home, before a final showdown with Wales, in Cardiff, in October.

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