CARDIFF: Spain will not have to face Gareth Bale in Thursday’s friendly, but Wales striker Sam Vokes insists the Real Madrid star’s absence will not mean an easy ride for the visitors in Cardiff.
Bale has been struggling with a groin injury and aggravated the problem during Real’s defeat at Alavés on Saturday.
The 29-year-old also missed Real’s Champions League defeat at CSKA Moscow last week and sat out Wales’ training session when he arrived for international duty on Monday.
Given his links with both countries, Bale should have relished playing against Spain, who feature several of his Real teammates, in the first meeting between the teams since 1985.
But coach Ryan Giggs is hoping the country’s record goalscorer will be fit for the more significant Nations League tie against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin on October 16.
“Gareth has got a little bit of muscle fatigue and he won’t be involved against Spain,” said Giggs. “We don’t want to take any risks and we are monitoring it every day. I would say he is 50-50 at the minute for the Ireland game.”
Even with Bale 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 Giggs since he succeeded Chris Coleman as Wales coach in January.
Wales produced one of their best performances in recent years when they thrashed the Republic of Ireland 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.
“It helps that I inherited a great squad spirit-wise and regarding how the lads get on,” Giggs said.
“(The) players have been really good and are taking all the information on board.”
Since their shock World Cup exit against Russia, Spain have gotten 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 firing on the eve of the competition after revealing he would be taking over as Real boss.
But new Spain coach Luis Enrique has steadied the ship, appearing unafraid to make big selection calls as he showed by once again leaving out Barcelona left-back Jordi Alba.
Spanish champions Barça 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.