Gareth Bale injury may rule him out of Real Madrid games against Tottenham

• Bale will miss crunch Wales games with Georgia and Republic of Ireland
• Real forward’s calf problem will rule him out for up to four weeks

Gareth Bale will miss Wales’s final World Cup qualifiers against Georgia and the Republic of Ireland with a calf injury that will rule him out for up to four weeks, making him a major doubt for both of Real Madrid’s Champions League fixtures against his former club Tottenham and leaving the forward facing a race against time to be fit for any play-off games for Russia 2018.

The news is a huge blow for Wales in particular, especially with so much resting on the Georgia and Ireland matches, and comes as a major disappointment to Bale, who was desperate to play for his country in two qualifiers that will determine whether Chris Coleman’s side have any chance of appearing at next summer’s finals.

Bale discovered the extent of the injury on Monday after flagging up discomfort in his calf that was unrelated to the hamstring problem that troubled him during Real’s 3-1 win over Borussia Dortmund last week. He underwent a scan on the hamstring while in Spain but his club were happy for the 28-year-old to join up with the Wales squad, despite the fact that he missed Sunday’s game against Espanyol. Zinedine Zidane said afterwards that Bale had a “small complaint” but Madrid’s coach described the player as “fine” and suggested leaving him out was a precautionary measure.

However, the calf problem that Bale mentioned after arriving in Cardiff prompted fresh concerns and led to Wales sending him for a scan on that area as well as the hamstring. It is understood that the results showed a tear within the calf muscle, meaning Bale had no chance of playing for Wales and faces the prospect of missing key games for Madrid, including the Champions League fixtures against Spurs on 17 October and 1 November.

From Wales’s point of view, the timing could not be worse. They are second in Group D, one point ahead of Ireland with two games remaining. With Serbia expected to finish top of the group, Wales’s hopes of reaching Russia 2018 hang on pipping Ireland to the runners-up spot and securing a play-off berth by being one of the eight best second-placed teams – as things stand they are ninth. The two-leg play-offs take place from 9-14 November, a little more than five weeks from now. Bale should be available by then but is unlikely to have played much football in the lead-up.

Before Wales can contemplate that scenario they need to negotiate a tricky away game on Friday against Georgia followed by Ireland’s visit on Monday. Bale’s absence leaves a huge hole to fill – Wales have won only eight out of 33 matches without him since his debut in 2006 – and Coleman must decide whether to start Ben Woodburn, the 17-year-old Liverpool forward who made such an impressive impact from the substitutes’ bench in the wins over Austria and Moldova last month, in his place.


Stuart James

The GuardianTramp

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