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Dublin: 8 °C Monday 18 February, 2019

How are Wales likely to line out against Ireland without Gareth Bale?

Chris Coleman’s side are missing their star man for tomorrow’s final World Cup qualifier in Cardiff.

Wales doing one of their unusual team photo poses during the win over Moldova last month.
Wales doing one of their unusual team photo poses during the win over Moldova last month.

SO THE BIG news going into tomorrow night’s crunch World Cup qualifier between Wales and Ireland is that the one truly world-class player involved will play no part.

After Slovenia held Scotland to a 2-2 draw this evening, the sides now know it’s in their hands and whoever wins at the Cardiff City Stadium will secure a two-legged play-off.

A calf injury ruled Gareth Bale out of Friday’s 1-0 win away to Georgia, and he will also be missing when Chris Coleman’s team host the Boys in Green on Monday.

While both camps have been keen to play down the significance of his absence, the Real Madrid star has been their driving force in recent years as the Dragons qualified for Euro 2016 and went all the way to the semi-finals.

In fact, before the victory in Tbilisi, they hadn’t won a competitive match without him since October 2013.

Of the 33 international games Bale has missed since his debut in 2006, Wales have been victorious in eight, and only three of those were competitive.

There was speculation in their most recent fixture that Coleman could replace the team’s talisman with one of two highly-rated 17-year-olds — Ben Woodburn of Liverpool or Ethan Ampadu, who joined Chelsea’s ranks from Exeter City over the summer.

Exciting Sheffield United winger David Brooks, who has represented England at U20 level, was also called into the senior squad for the first time.

Wales Training Session - Vale Resort A group of Wales player training, among them are teenagers Ben Woodburn and Ethan Ampadu. Source: David Davies

However, Coleman opted to stick with the tried-and-trusted by recalling the experienced Joe Ledley to the midfield and pushing Aaron Ramsey further forward to support strikers Sam Vokes.

Coleman prides himself on being able to set his team up in several different ways depending on the opponent and he has been known to alternate between three, four and five-man defences in the past.

So he’s got options. For the game in Dublin last March, Wales lined out in a 3-5-2 with Bale in behind Hal Robson-Kanu. More recently, away to Georgia last Friday, he went with 4-2-3-1.

Coleman will also have to again decide if he wants to give one of the aforementioned youngsters a start or put his faith in the players who have achieved so much over the past couple of years.

The latter is the more likely of those two scenarios.

Wales probable line-up (4-2-3-1): Hennessy; Gunter, Williams, Chester, Davies; Allen, Ledley; King; Ramsey, Lawrence; Vokes.

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Ben Blake

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