Cyprus vs Wales preview: Welsh won't let hosts target Gareth Bale in Euro qualifier

The Real Madrid man was the victim of some tough tackling last time the two sides met

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The Independent Football

Andy King will have no hesitation in dishing out some punishment against Cyprus if it prevents them kicking Gareth Bale out of Wales’ campaign to qualify for next year’s European Championship.

The Leicester midfielder is set to win his 30th cap in Thursday's Group B qualifier in Nicosia, taking the place of injured Liverpool player Joe Allen.

The last time the two sides met Wales emerged 2-1 victors in a bad-tempered encounter last October which left plenty of ill feeling. Wales were infuriated that Cyprus were able to escape censure for their uncompromising approach to Bale.

Within five minutes the world’s most expensive player had twice been tackled and felled at full tilt, and Welsh frustrations only increased when King was sent off early in the second half.

The 26-year-old insists he has learnt the lessons of that night, and will keep his cool with Wales on the brink of qualification for the finals in France. But he has vowed to not take a backward step in protecting Bale and allowing the Welsh galactico the best possible chance of leading his country to another victory.

“The treatment of Gareth is what got our backs up a bit in the first game, the way they were targeting him,” said King. “They were doing whatever they wanted without us doing anything back. My tackle was a mistake but I have learnt from that and we need to be prepared for it to happen again and be ready to give them a bit as well.

“It was probably a bit over the top from me, but when you play teams who want to kick us they need to understand we will kick them back as well. That doesn’t make what I did right, but it is a learning curve and I am sure it will be the same challenge, particularly in their backyard, where they might feel they can get away with more.”

King’s two-match suspension for his sending-off in Cardiff kept him out of the draw in Belgium and the win in Israel, but he returned to the squad as Belgium were defeated in June.

Having always had the habit of chipping in with valuable goals for Wales, King has joined the camp brimming with confidence following Leicester’s superb start to the new Premier League season.

They occupy one of the Champions League qualification places, having gone unbeaten through their first four games, and King has thanked new manager Claudio Ranieri for putting faith in him and allowing him to shine.

“It makes a difference to have the confidence of the manager when he has signed other players in your position and made the decision to stick with you,” said King.

“He has worked with some top, top players and is very experienced. So to learn off him can only be good for me and the rest of the team. He has made me more tactically aware.

“He has a real easy charm about him and it is all about playing well for him and I am doing that at the moment.”