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'Whatever Ireland have planned for Bale, it won't be anything new'

Wales boss Chris Coleman insists they aren’t under pressure to win at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow night.

Coleman speaking at the Aviva Stadium.
Coleman speaking at the Aviva Stadium.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

WALES MANAGER CHRIS Coleman has rejected claims that tomorrow’s meeting with Ireland is a must-win game.

After draws with Austria, Georgia and Serbia, the Euro 2016 semi-finalists find themselves four points back from the Boys in Green with four matches played.

Another setback at the Aviva Stadium on Friday would put a sizeable dent in their hopes of qualifying for next year’s World Cup finals in Russia.

But, speaking at his pre-match press conference in Dublin tonight, the Wales boss says there’s still a long way to go.

“We’ve got a gameplan, we always do,” Coleman told the media. “Ireland aren’t top of the group for nothing so we’re in their back yard trying to make sure we go home with something.

“We’ve just got to do what we’ve been doing for some time. People are saying that it’s a must-win game for Wales, that it’s a more important game for Wales than it is for the Republic of Ireland but it’s not.

“Even if we were five or six points clear, we’re going into it just thinking this is the next game. It’s the most important game for our players because it’s the next challenge.

“When you’re in a campaign you get to halfway and see where you are. Either you’re fighting at the wrong end or you’re fighting at the right end.

“There is pressure on us but it what I wished for and dreamed about. We are right in there. That’s the industry we are in. All I can do is work the way I have been working.

“All the players can do is what they have been doing. We dropped points against Georgia and conceded in the last five minutes against Serbia but the performance was good. We took a point in Austria and now that is deemed as not a good point.

“We know where we are and there’s no panic from me or from us. There’s a long way to go in this group. The Republic of Ireland know that also.

This is the fifth game in 10 so let’s see where we come out tomorrow.”

Coleman has a clean bill of health for the first time in the campaign, meaning he is likely to return to a 3-5-2 formation with Premier League talent Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal), Joe Allen (Stoke City) and Joe Ledley (Crystal Palace) in midfield.

When asked about Ireland’s strengths, the former Fulham boss believes their whole is greater than the sum of their parts.

“I think they’re a team,” he said. “That’s just as big a threat as any one great player that you’ve got. If you have a team that plays together, who are organised and passionate, which Ireland have got, then that’s their biggest threat.

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“I think we’re similar, although we play slightly differently. In terms of passion, commitment and energy, the two teams are very similar. It’ll be an interesting game.”

Wales Training Session - Vale Resort Gareth Bale will be expected to produce again for Wales. Source: David Davies

Ireland will look to somehow keep Gareth Bale quiet for 90 minutes, but the Wales manager added that his talisman has seen it all before.

Whatever Ireland have planned for Gareth, it won’t be anything new that’s for sure. There’s nothing that will come tomorrow that he won’t be ready for.”

Wales have included 17-year-old Liverpool forward Ben Woodburn in the squad, with Reds boss Jurgen Klopp unhappy that he’s been thrust into the limelight at his tender age.

“Ben has coped very well,” responded Coleman. “Like I said at the start, I knew he’d be okay. He’s training with international players at Liverpool everyday, so he’s a good player. We don’t see what all the fuss is about calling him in.

“If he’s with Liverpool and they’re a Champions League-chasing team, what’s the fuss that we’re calling him into our squad?

“We’re happy with Ben and we look after all our young players.”

Wales Media Activity - March 21st Teenager Ben Woodburn. Source: David Davies

As a side-plot, Everton team-mates Ashley Williams and Seamus Coleman will face off as opposing captains tomorrow night. The pair have become good mates on Merseyside but will put that friendship aside.

“We haven’t spoken,” said Williams. “We said we wouldn’t leading up to it, but we’ve become good friends. He’s a competitor like I am and I’m sure he’s fully-focused. I’ll speak to him when I go back in next week.

“He’s one of the best players I’ve played with. He can defend very well but he’s also one of the most attacking defenders I’ve ever seen so we’ll have to keep an eye on him.”

Wales probable team (3-5-2): Hennessey; Chester, Williams, Davies; Gunter, Ledley Allen, Ramsey, Taylor; Bale, Vokes.

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Ben Blake

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