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Roy Keane: 'I expected Gareth Bale to be fit - but we'll be ready for him'

The Ireland assistant boss says they’ll be “up against a very, very good team” when Wales come to Dublin.

2016 Christmas Sport Package Wales star Gareth Bale will be ready to face Ireland next month. Source: Martin Rickett

ROY KEANE HAS admitted that there’s extra pressure on the Republic of Ireland heading into next month’s 2018 World Cup qualifier against Wales after November’s crucial victory away to Austria left the Boys in Green at the top of the table in Group D.

As a result of the 1-0 win in Vienna, Martin O’Neill’s side hold a two-point lead over Serbia in the race to qualify for next year’s tournament in Russia, while Wales are two points further back.

The Welsh, who reached the semi-finals at last summer’s European Championships, will come to Dublin on 24 March when Ireland resume their qualifying campaign.

On the back of a four-month break from international football, Keane is eager to get things up and running again. However, Ireland’s assistant manager has warned the players about the increased levels of expectation that have been generated by their results so far.

“We can’t wait for the match. We’ve got a bit of momentum, but obviously there’s added pressure now because when you get a little bit of success people automatically think you just turn up and you’re going to win football matches. It doesn’t work that way,” Keane said at yesterday’s 2017 SSE Airtricity League launch at the Aviva Stadium.

“We’re up against a very, very good team, obviously with some outstanding individuals. But Martin has done a brilliant job. We’ve got a good spirit, good energy in the group, we’ve got some really good players, I think the fans are right behind us at the moment. Obviously that can change very, very quickly, we all know that. But we’re really looking forward to the match.

“Please God all our lads stay fit for the next four or five weeks. The beauty of working with the players is we know the players will give it everything they’ve got. When players do that you’ve always got a chance.”

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Roy Keane Roy Keane speaking at yesterday's launch of the 2017 SSE Airtricity League season. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Wales have been boosted by the news that star player Gareth Bale is set to be available for the vital game at the Aviva Stadium. The Real Madrid star had been doubtful but he has returned to training after being sidelined by an ankle injury he sustained in November.

Keane insists that Bale’s return hasn’t changed anything for Ireland. They were planning to face the 27-year-old winger anyway and, according to the former Manchester United captain, it presents an opportunity for the Ireland players to test themselves against one of the best in the business.

“I expected Bale to be fit,” Keane said. “I’d like to think he’s getting some good medical care over there. He’s working with the best surgeons and fitness coaches. I see he’s back kicking a ball.

“To me he was always going to be fit for our match. We’ll be ready for him. Well, I won’t, but the players will. We’ve got some good players, Seamus Coleman and people like that.

“We should be excited because you want to test yourself against the best and I’m sure our players will be looking forward to it.”

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