Spain might not have to face Gareth Bale in Thursday’s glamour friendly, but Wales striker Sam Vokes insists the Real Madrid star’s absence won’t give the visitors an easy ride in Cardiff.
Bale is struggling with a groin injury after aggravating the problem during Real’s defeat at Alaves on Saturday.The 29-year-old also missed Real’s Champions League tie at CSKA Moscow last week with the same issue and sat out Wales’ training session when he arrived for international duty on Monday.
Given his links with both countries, Bale would relish playing against Spain, who feature several of his Real teammates, in the first meeting between the teams since 1985.But with Wales having a more significant Nations League tie against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin on October 16, Bale – his country’s record goalscorer – is likely to be rested against Spain to give him extra time to recover.
Even with Bale potentially on the sidelines, Burnley’s Vokes is certain Wales will show they are more than a one-man band.”Gareth is massive for us, but we’ve got a lot of players playing at top level now,” Vokes said.”They are playing regularly as well and that can only help us.”If there are players missing there are others ready to step in.”
Vokes’ confidence is built on the foundations laid by Ryan Giggs since he succeeded Chris Coleman as Wales manager in January.Wales produced one of their best performances in recent years when they thrashed the Republic 4-1 in their Nations League opener last month.Their second taste of the competition, a 2-0 defeat in Denmark three days later, was not so productive for former Manchester United winger Giggs, who has won two and drawn one of his five matches.
But Giggs’ tenure, notable for his use of emerging young talent, has already sparked enough enthusiasm to convince Welsh FA chiefs to schedule the Spain fixture for the 74 500-capacity Principality Stadium – their first appearance there since 2011.
ENRIQUE WANTS OPTIONS
“It helps that I inherited a great squad spirit-wise and regarding how the lads get on,” Giggs said.”Obviously, I’m different from the previous manager, I’ve got my own ways and my own thoughts about how I want to play and work.”But the players have been really good and are taking all the information on board.”
Since their shock World Cup exit against Russia, Spain have got back on track in the Nations League with a 2-1 win against England and a 6-0 rout of World Cup finalists Croatia.Spain’s World Cup woes were triggered by Julen Lopetegui’s sacking on the eve of the competition after revealing he would be taking over as Real boss.
But new Spain manager Luis Enrique has steadied the ship, appearing unafraid to make big selection calls as he showed by once again by leaving out Barcelona left-back Jordi Alba.Spanish champions Barca are represented by only one player, Sergio Busquets, as Enrique preferred uncapped Wolves defender Jonny Otto to Alba.
“Azpilicueta plays right-back, and Jonny can do it. That’s why I’ve chosen these players,” Enrique said.”I’m not talking about those who are not here. It’s not a taboo subject but I’m not going to talk about them.”After facing Wales, Spain host England in Nations League action on October 15.”A friendly gives me the options to try things that I want. But the vital one is England,” Enrique said.
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