Gareth Bale has been ruled out of Wales’ final two World Cup qualifiers against Georgia and the Republic of Ireland.
Bale’s fitness has been a source of concern since he suffered a calf muscle strain playing for Real Madrid against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League last week.
The 28-year-old missed their La Liga game with Espanyol on Sunday but reported to the Wales camp the following morning. Bale attended the Welsh Football Association Awards on Monday but will not be fit enough to play in the two qualifiers which will determine their World Cup ambitions.
Zinédine Zidane reported last weekend that Bale was suffering from “muscle fatigue” but the Real Madrid manager added it was “nothing important”.
He added: “He could have played with us [against Espanyol] but I preferred to leave him out as he had a small complaint. He’s fine. After so many games at the start of the season and four months of injury, he was suffering after the game in Dortmund.”
However Bale has felt enough discomfort to withdraw from the Georgia game in Tbilisi on Friday and the Republic’s visit to Cardiff three days later.
Wales are currently in second place in Group D, four points behind the leaders, Serbia, and one point above the Republic. Two wins are likely to guarantee them at least a place in next month’s play-offs.
Bale’s absence could open the door for the Liverpool teenager Ben Woodburn to make his first start. The 17-year-old made a dramatic introduction when he scored the winner within five minutes of coming on as a second-half substitute against Austria last month. Three days later he made another huge impact from the bench when he set up the first goal in Wales’ 2-0 win in Moldova.