LANDMARK: Bale “raring to go” as he prepares for 100th cap
PA - Nick Potts
Gareth Bale is “raring to go” and on course to win his 100th cap after being named in Wales’ squad for World Cup qualifiers with Belarus and Belgium.
Real Madrid forward Bale has not played since September 8 after suffering what was described by Wales boss Robert Page as a “significant hamstring tear”.
But Real manager Carlo Ancelotti says Bale could be involved in Saturday’s LaLiga clash with Rayo Vallecano and Page has named his 32-year-old captain in a 28-man squad for Wales’ vital double-header this month.
Bale would become only the second Welshman to reach the 100-cap milestone after team-mate Chris Gunter, who achieved the feat in March.
“Gareth is in a good place. He’s exactly where we and the medical team thought he should be,” Page said.
“I spoke to him on Saturday and he’s raring to go. He’s back on the grass and doing absolutely everything possible to get himself 100 per cent fit.
“He’s not in full-time training yet, but we’ve got another week and where we want him to be.”
Bale was on the scoresheet against Levante before scoring a hat-trick in Wales’ 3-2 World Cup qualifying victory against Belarus.
Gareth Bale is set to join Chris Gunter as a member of the Wales 100-cap club.
Bale spent last season on loan at Tottenham and was a regular starter at Real following Ancelotti’s return to Madrid.
But his last game was Wales’ goalless draw with Estonia nearly two months ago and Real have been careful managing his recovery.
Page said: “If we have to adhere to a plan they want to put in place we’d be prepared to do it because we want Gareth as part of the squad.
“He’s got a good relationship with the manager and medical team there, and so have we. Conversations are to be had and it’s about trusting each other.”
Asked if Real would prevent Bale from joining the Wales squad, Page said: “If he declares himself fit I can’t see why they wouldn’t. They’ve been very supportive.
“If there are any issues I think it will come from maybe Gareth pushing himself too hard and having a slight knock back.
“But he’s far too experienced to do something like that. I don’t think Gareth not playing will have an impact on my team selection for the Belarus game.
“He’s a fit lad who doesn’t half look after himself really well. I know it’s not the same as playing games, but when you’ve got someone like Gareth Bale coming back into the squad he’ll be considered to start games.”
Wales probably need four points from their final two qualifiers to finish second in Group E and secure a World Cup play-off place.
The Dragons are almost-certainly guaranteed a play-off spot anyway due to their Nations League success and Page is also confident that Juventus midfielder Aaron Ramsey will be available.
Ramsey has played just six minutes for his club since starting Wales’ qualifiers in the Czech Republic and Estonia last month and will miss Juventus’ Champions League tie on Tuesday through muscle fatigue.
Page said: “He’s learning as he’s getting into his 30s to manage his body, he can’t do what he did in his early 20s.
“He’s identified that there was quite a bit of muscle fatigue and he took himself out of it, which is sensible.
“Aaron would have probably pushed himself five years ago and broken down.
“I’m pleased to see that. He did it before the last camp and was with us. I don’t see any change to that mentality for this camp.”
Page was speaking for the first time since the announcement that Bournemouth forward David Brooks has been diagnosed with stage two Hodgkin Lymphoma.
Brooks withdrew from October’s World Cup qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Estonia after his illness was detected by the Football Association of Wales’ medical team.
“I think when you’ve worked with a player for as long as myself, the doctor and Shaun have, you know and can see slight differences,” Page said.
“He didn’t look right and wasn’t himself. I can’t speak highly enough of the medical team.”
Ben Cabango and Will Vaulks have replaced Tom Lockyer and Matt Smith from the squad originally named last month.
Squad: W Hennessey (Burnley), D Ward (Leicester), A Davies (Stoke), C Gunter (Charlton), B Davies (Tottenham), C Roberts (Burnley), C Mepham (Bournemouth), J Rodon (Tottenham), B Cabango (Swansea), N Williams (Liverpool), J Lawrence (St Pauli), R Norrington-Davies (Sheff Utd), E Ampadu (Venezia, on loan from Chelsea), J Allen (Stoke), J Morrell (Portsmouth), W Vaulks (Cardiff), D Levitt (Dundee Utd, on loan from Man Utd), A Ramsey (Juventus), J Williams (Swindon), H Wilson (Fulham), S Thomas (Huddersfield), R Colwill (Cardiff), B Johnson (Nottingham Forest), D James (Leeds), K Moore (Cardiff), G Bale (Real Madrid), T Roberts (Leeds), M Harris (Cardiff).
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