Robert Page has insisted Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey will be “fighting fit” for Wales’s World Cup play-off semi-final against Austria and is not concerned they could be undercooked, despite the pair struggling for game time at their clubs.
Bale has played 77 minutes for Real Madrid since Wales’s rout of Belarus in November and Ramsey, who joined Rangers on loan from Juventus in January, has made only two starts since that international camp.
Page said he was confident Bale and Ramsey would be in “peak condition” for next Thursday’s match at a sold-out Cardiff City Stadium and suggested playing for Wales helped the key duo to excel. The manager conceded their fitness could have been a problem had they been facing a possible play-off final the following Tuesday. The final will take place in June after Scotland v Ukraine was postponed.
“We took Aaron to the Czech Republic [in October] and we were concerned about the two games back-to-back and I thought he was outstanding in both games. We got to an hour in the second game [against Estonia] … and come 60, 70 minutes he was still on there shaking his head, saying: ‘I’m fine.’ When they put that jersey on, they go to another level. They just keep going.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had a camp where we’ve had all our players playing the weekend before. But big players turn up for big games and they’ve proven that over time. The other way of looking at it is they’ll be fresh and raring to go. They’re fighting fit and raring to go. They have done it time and time again … they’ll have their individual programmes to make sure that come Thursday they’re in peak condition.”
Bale and Ramsey are the headline names in the 26-man squad. The key absentee is the Leicester goalkeeper Danny Ward, after a knee operation that will sideline him for several weeks, and the forwards Tyler Roberts and Kieffer Moore are also injured.
Burnley’s Wayne Hennessey, backup to Ward at Euro 2020, is set to win his 99th cap against Austria and his 100th in a friendly on Tuesday against as yet unnamed opponents. “I know he’ll grab the opportunity with both hands.” Page said. “He’s reacted in such a positive way since I gave the No 1 spot to Danny.”