Bale back for Wales as Northern Ireland face must-win game

 

Gareth Bale should continue his return from injury in Wales' home friendly with Australia tonight. The 22-year-old winger has impressed in pre-season for Tottenham Hotspur, but likely opponent Luke Wilkshire insisted that he was not intimidated by the prospect of facing the PFA Player of the Year.

Wilkshire, who plays for Dynamo Moscow, would not admit to any apprehension. "You don't go losing sleep over who you are coming up against," he said. Wilkshire can expect help, though, from Brett Emerton; and the Blackburn Rovers midfielder warned: "He is a fantastic player and one of the best natural wide men in the game. He has had a fantastic 12 months, so he is going to be tough opposition for us."

Bale had an exceptional season last year but it was ended early when a poor tackle from Blackpool's Charlie Adam ruptured his ankle ligaments on 7 May. After spending time in a protective boot, the Welshman has enjoyed a confident return in pre-season so far. In three friendlies against Orlando Pirates, Brighton and Hove Albion and Athletic Bilbao, Bale has set up four goals.

The only home nation playing competitive football this evening is Northern Ireland, who host the Faroe Islands at Windsor Park. If Nigel Worthington's side win, they will move ahead of Serbia into third place in Group C, just two points behind second-placed Slovenia. There will be no complacency in Belfast, though, after Northern Ireland's 1-1 draw in the Faroe Islands last October.

Gareth McAuley insisted that the players hoped to make up for that disappointment tonight. "The game in the Faroes was a low point," he said, "but if you ask Estonia about going there it's probably a low for them too," he said, referring to the Baltic side's 2-0 defeat in Toftir in June. "It wasn't great though. We have to ask ourselves the questions about going out there. Did we prepare right? Did we respect them enough? All those things we are looking at and making sure they are put right. The pressure is on to perform and get a result. We know it's a must-win, no bones about it."

Rangers midfielder Steven Davis voiced a similar warning. "This is a game we should be winning," he said, "but we all know football and especially international football, doesn't work like that. We are hopeful of getting all three points if we can go about our business in the right way. It's fair to say if we don't get all three points on Wednesday we can probably forget about qualifying."

With Warren Feeney, Kyle Lafferty and Chris Brunt all absent, attacking responsibility will rest upon veteran goalscorer David Healy. Meanwhile, the Republic of Ireland will be without one of their leading strikers, as Kevin Doyle has returned to Wolverhampton Wanderers ahead of tonight's game with Croatia. Giovanni Trapattoni said yesterday that Doyle was "not 100 per cent fit" and so for the avoidance of risk Doyle has returned to Molineux. Doyle is not the Republic's only Premier League absentee; Stoke's Jon Walters and Marc Wilson, Wigan's James McCarthy and Everton's Seamus Coleman will all be missing from the Aviva Stadium tonight.

Scotland are hosting Denmark this evening, with Craig Levein hoping for useful preparation ahead of their next qualifiers. "This game has been picked to give us an equal test to what the Czech Republic will give us," he said. "I deliberately picked a tough fixture."

Manchester United's full-back Patrice Evra has pulled out of France's game against Chile with a knee injury.

News
news
Sport
Danny Cipriani of England breaks clear to score his second try
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
tvSPOILER ALERT: Like a mash-up of 28 Days Later, Braveheart, The Killing and Lord of the Rings, this GoT episode was a belter
Life and Style
Angel Di Maria is shown the red card
tech
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral