The Wales captain Gareth Bale has said he would love to “get one over” on his Croatia counterpart and Real Madrid teammate Luka Modric at the fourth time of asking when the pair duel on Sunday. Bale has described the meeting in Cardiff as a humongous match with Ryan Giggs’s side fourth in Group E, six points behind leaders Croatia with three games to play.
Bale has shaken off a knee issue sustained in Thursday’s 1-1 draw against Slovakia, while Giggs admits a thigh complaint means Aaron Ramsey remains touch-and-go, with the midfielder having not travelled to Bratislava to boost his chances of featuring in Cardiff.
Bale and Modric, who also played alongside each other at Tottenham, have shared 13 trophies across six years together in Madrid but the former has never been on the winning side when they have met at international level, with Croatia winning each of the past three meetings, the most recent of which was a 2-1 victory in Osijek in June.
“Whenever we have played we’ve always lost by one goal and it’s always been quite a tight game,” Bale said. “We know what a great team they are, they had a great World Cup and they have shown year after year how good they actually are. We know it is going to be very tough but I think being at home gives us a little bit more of an advantage and we know the Welsh crowd will be behind us. We’ve played together for a long time in Tottenham and Real Madrid so we know each other quite well. It would be nice to get one over on him finally because they have beaten us a few times in the past.”
Bale, as well as midfielder Joe Allen, are one booking away from suspension and the forward acknowledged he needs to be streetwise. “I can’t make too many silly tackles or anything, I have to be mindful of that,” Bale said. “I don’t want to miss any games for Wales and especially at the crunch time of the group. I guess I have to be clever with what I’m doing but maybe I have to expect that someone is going to wind me up to get me suspended.”
The Wigan striker Kieffer Moore is expected to retain his place in the starting XI, while Giggs said he could freshen things up elsewhere. He will make late calls on Ethan Ampadu and Jonny Williams; both of whom started in Slovakia in midweek, though the pair took part in a light session on Saturday morning.
“They are a fantastic team with brilliant individuals, but we are a good team as well,” Giggs said. “We showed that on Thursday night but we need to be better and we need to do it for 90 minutes. Any mistakes, any lapses in concentration, you get punished at this top level against the top teams. It’s not easy but we have got the players to do it and the players are ready.”