Champions League: Real Madrid Ready To Show Why They Are Champs!

Ajax vs Real Madrid

“A fourth consecutive Champions League? Nothing is impossible for Real Madrid.”

That’s what Los Blancos manager Santiago Solari said ahead of their last-16 match-up with Ajax, and those words send a clear message to the rest of the Champions League playing field: the Madrid giants are back to stake their claim as the best in Europe.

The departure of Cristiano Ronaldo and the shock exit of manager Zinedine Zidane were massive blows to the La Liga side; but make no mistake, they remain confident about their title chances even if the odds are stacked against them.

Ajax know very well they are the underdogs in this showdown; however, they will be motivated playing at Amsterdam, in front of a passionate home crowd in Johan Cruyff Arena.

Talking Points

Real Madrid finding their groove

Ronaldo and Zidane led Real Madrid to a record three straight Champions League titles, and after the two left the club in the summer, the team was thrust into the unknown.

Julen Lopetegui’s hiring as manager was supposed to keep Real in contention. Nonetheless, that proved to be a disaster instead, as they found themselves winning just six of their first 13 contests in all competitions.

They lost to CSKA Moscow in a Champions League tie in October, and things didn’t get any better for them. They succumbed to Barcelona 5-1 in El Clasico, a match which sealed the fate of Lopetegui at the Bernabeu.

Fortunately for Madrid, they were able to recover in time with the arrival of Solari. The Argentine manager has guided Los Blancos back to title contention in La Liga, all after spending some time outside the top three.

The team has also experienced a significant turnaround, particularly in the past month. Real are unbeaten in seven consecutive games now, winning six and drawing one in the process. Most recently, they took down city rivals Atletico Madrid, with Gareth Bale scoring his 100th Real goal.

Real Madrid boss Santiago Solari is confident that his side will beat Ajax in the upcoming Champions League battle

Real Madrid boss Santiago Solari stands on the pitch during their training ahead of the Champions League battle with Ajax

Real Madrid have undoubtedly regained their confidence, and that’s something Ajax will be wary of. Sure enough, they are not the same force they once were without Ronaldo and Zidane, but that also comes with fewer expectations—something which Real could well take advantage.

A bad omen for Ajax

Ajax shouldn’t be written off. After all, they are a great attacking team and undoubtedly deserve to be on this stage.

The Dutch side has already scored a league-leading 72 goals in the Dutch Eredivisie, and they know very well they can score against any team. Besides, they never failed to score in their unbeaten run in the group stage of the Champions League this year.

They gave Bayern Munich a run for their money in the battle for the top spot in Group E, proving they belong among Europe’s elite.

However, in an unusual turn of events, Ajax lost 1-0 to eighth-placed Heracles in the build-up to this game. One could argue that they are just preparing for their encounter with Real, but the fact that they didn’t find the back of the net is a cause for concern.

That was the first time Ajax failed to score since their 3-0 defeat to PSV Eindhoven last September—that’s a 25-match scoring streak!

The timing of the defeat couldn’t get any worse, and it doesn’t help the team that they received more bad news with an injury to Frenkie de Jong.

De Jong, considered as the heart of the Ajax midfield, is doubtful to play against Real Madrid due to a thigh problem. He picked up the injury in their defeat to Heracles, forcing him to be substituted in the 79th minute.

The 21-year-old De Jong said earlier last week that Ajax need just a ‘little luck’ to get past Real Madrid, but it seems lady luck isn’t smiling on them.

History

Real Madrid will look to grab the Champions League 2019 highlights as they try to re-establish their dominance in the UCL. And Ajax could be the perfect opponents for them considering their recent head-to-head record.

The Spanish outfit have won their past six games in European competition against Ajax, though their last meeting was way back in 2012.

Real Madrid have scored a total of 20 goals against Ajax during that stretch, highlighted by a 1-4 drubbing in October 2012 when Ronaldo hit a hat-trick. In contrast, the Dutch team has only scored two over that period.

Betting Tip

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Ajax vs Real Madrid Correct Score Real Madrid 1-3 @ 12.50
February 13, 04:00 (GMT+8)

Although both teams are strong offensively, there’s no doubt Real Madrid have the advantage. The Champions League 2019 odds at us point to a relatively tight affair, but I don’t think that will be the case.

I predict the two clubs to find the back of the net. Nevertheless, Ajax’s defence is suspect—having lost 6-2 to Feyenoord late last month—and I think that will doom them.

With that said, I’m putting the smart money on Real Madrid to dominate and take a commanding lead heading to the return fixture at home.

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?? = €20 (Highly confident) ?? = €10 (CONFIDENT) ?? = €5 (SOMEWHAT CONFIDENT)

Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

 

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La Liga: Real Reclaim ‘City Kings’ Title

Atletico Madrid 1-3 Real Madrid

If this was only about playing for pride, as far as this season’s La Liga title is concerned, then it showed just how important victory was to both sides.

The title of best club in the city is one both crave with a passion, irrespective of whether there is a championship to contest, and no quarter was duly given on or off the pitch.

Pride and loyalty counts for a lot in the Spanish capital as Thibaut Courtois, formerly of Atletico (during a three-year loan spell), found out.

He was showered with toy rats as he entered the field of play with many Atletico supporters naturally bitter towards the Belgian for what they deem as a betrayal.

A plaque that bears his name outside the stadium was also vandalised.

Yet Courtois and his team-mates had the last laugh.

Highlights of the game

There had been time for reflection with a minute’s silence observed before the match in memory of Isacio Calleja, one of the greatest players in Atletico’s history over 14 successful seasons.

It would have been interesting to find out what Real fans made of Alvaro Morata starting for Atletico against his former club, too.

Coach Diego Simeone handed the on-loan Chelsea man a starting berth as he partnered Antoine Griezmann on the attack.

Chasing victory which would overtake Atletico and put them into second spot, Real started in the ascendancy.

They were rewarded just after a quarter of an hour when Toni Kroos delivered a corner and the unmarked Casemiro expertly and somewhat acrobatically volleyed past Jan Oblak – one of the early La Liga 2019 highlights.

Moments after being booked, Griezmann continued his fine form with his eighth goal in his last nine games.

Angel Correa slipped the ball through and the Atletico number seven had plenty to do but coolly slipped the ball underneath Courtois.

After a few tense moments and a look at VAR, referee Estrada Fernandez ruled the goal stood. It was his 10th goal of the campaign.

The next goal was always likely to be crucial, and it was skipper Sergio Ramos who restored the visitors’ lead with a penalty.

Jose Gimenez fouled the lively Vinicius Junior in the box, and Ramos made no mistake from the spot.

Thibaut Courtois pelted with rats during Atletico's La Liga game vs Real Madrid

A stuffed mouse lies on the pitch after being thrown by a fan during the Madrid Derby

It took his derby account to six goals in 41 games against Atletico while bringing his tally for the campaign to 11 goals.

Surprisingly though, it was Ramos’ first La Liga goal against Atletico.

Chances came and went and Atletico would have been level again. but for VAR which ruled out a glorious finish from Morata for offside.

It was left to substitute Gareth Bale, on for Vinicius, to wrap up the victory as he converted Luka Modric’s pass to make the game safe and ruin my us prediction of a draw.

He has been under fire of late, but it is hard to argue with Bale’s Real record.

Atletico’s frustrations were compounded when Thomas Partey was shown a second yellow card for lunging in on Kroos and catching him on the ankle.

Real, who are now up to second, are in good form, and this was perhaps the most impressive victory since Santiago Solari took charge. His side absorbed some of Atletico’s heaviest punches but responded with the dangerous playmaking of Karim Benzema, Vinicius and Modric, combined with a stout defence.

It may be premature to speak of a Real renaissance, but this victory will certainly do them the power of good.

The La Liga 2019 betting odds look a bit more favourable for them, even if a title race seems unlikely.

Key statistics

Bale has now scored 100 goals for Real (in 217 games for the club).

Casemiro’s goal was the fastest Atletico have conceded in La Liga since they moved to their new home 18 months ago.

It was also the first time they have conceded two goals at home in the first half in their new stadium in all competitions.

Griezmann is now the highest scorer in Madrid derbies of players currently available with six goals.

Ramos has now equalled Jose Antonio Camacho’s 414 La Liga appearances for Los Blancos. Ramos has also now scored against 26 Spanish top-flight opponents.

No away player has won more times at the Metropolitano than Courtois (one for Chelsea in last season’s Champions League and one today).

What’s next?

Atletico go to Rayo Vallecano next weekend and then host Juventus in a massive Champions League tie four days later (February 20).

Real are in knockout stages action this Wednesday with a trip to Ajax before entertaining Girona in La Liga next Sunday (February 17).

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La Liga: Real Need Quick Return to Winning Ways

Real Madrid vs Real Sociedad

It’s already been a troubled start to 2019 for Real Madrid.

After dropping points in their New Year opener to a side which was in the relegation zone, the European Champions can now ill afford to concede further ground on the title contenders.

With their post-Cristiano Ronaldo form suggesting a fourth successive Champions League title is unlikely, the importance of La Liga for Los Blancos is emphatically clear.

Talking Points

This position is nothing new of course.

us statisticians will tell you Madrid have only been Spanish champions twice in the last decade – with Jose Mourinho in 2011/12 and under Zinedine Zidane in 2016/17 – and it has become a tradition for Madrid to be out of the title race early on.

Yet, of their 17 league games this season, the European and world champions have won just nine, drawing three and losing five, meaning they have failed to win almost every other game this season and have already dropped 21 points.

That needs to be put right quickly if they are to mount a challenge.

Certainly, there is a far greater chance to catch up domestically than in Europe, even if they do trail leaders and arch-rivals Barcelona by seven points as domestic combat resumes after a brief winter hiatus.

The sacking of Julen Lopetegui was as ruthless as the announcement of his appointment was crass. The club is slowly but surely recovering, though, even if there are serious doubts whether replacement Santiago Solari’s tenure will extend beyond this summer.

He’s poised to make his first signing next week, and it’s one for the future with 19-year-old Brahim Diaz. The former Malaga youngster, set to join from Manchester City, is subject to a medical in a deal costing £15.5 million, rising to around £21 million with add-ons.

Madrid certainly need strengthening in the post-Cristiano era.

The trio of Luka Modric, skipper Sergio Ramos and Karim Benzema are all over 30 and, in Solari, there is a suggestion the club hasn’t a figurehead established enough to attract top stars.

Gareth Bale will miss out La Liga clash against Real Sociedad after suffering an injury

Gareth Bale picks up an injury during their match against Villareal

With Gareth Bale also out for up to a fortnight after sustaining an injury in the 2-2 draw with Villarreal, Real are definitely lacking some of the star quality which has been sprinkled throughout their starting XI in recent seasons.

On saying all of that, this weekend’s opponents Real Sociedad would love to be in Madrid’s shoes.

Critics say Madrid have gone backwards but remember: this is still a side which claimed a 13th European Cup, the Club World Cup and Modric’s Ballon d’Or in what many perceive to be a troubled 2018.

Sociedad have seen Eusebio Sacristan and Asier Garitano leave the club which also bid an emotional farewell to Xabi Prieto and Imanol Agirretxe.

Meanwhile, Inigo Martinez’s departure for Basque rivals Athletic Bilbao – one of the La Liga 2019 news stories – marked one of the San Sebastian side’s worst moments in recent years.

One-time Arsenal man Carlos Vela was another who set off from La Real as he embarked on a new journey in Major League Soccer, having played in both the Champions League and Europa League at the club.

With Sociedad in 15th place, just three points clear of the drop zone, Madrid’s situation should be put in perspective.

One word of encouragement of Sociedad, though. Madrid have conceded one more goal in the league than them this term so, despite their limited attack – 18 goals scored in 17 league matches – this may be closer than many think.

History

Last season, Madrid secured a league double in comfortable fashion.

They won 3-1 at Sociedad in September, courtesy of goals from Borja Mayoral, Bale and an own goal.

They won this corresponding fixture, 5-2, in the Bernabeu when Ronaldo netted a hat-trick and was joined on the scoresheet by Toni Kroos and Lucas Vazquez.

Sociedad have lost their last seven meetings, last recording a victory in August 2014.

Betting Tip

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Real Madrid vs Real Sociedad Real Madrid Asian Handicap -1.75 @ 2.26
January 7 01:30 (GMT+8)

The La Liga 2019 betting odds make Real firm favourites.

They are priced 1X2 @ 1.36 with the draw offered @ 4.60, and Sociedad way out @ 8.50.

If there are to be plenty of goals, you can get odds on over 3.50 @ 2.14 and total goal 4-6 @ 2.45.

Sociedad have lost their last three matches while Real have still won six and drew one of their seven home league games this term.

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Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

 

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Bale stars as Real reach final

Real Madrid coach Santiago Solari hopes Gareth Bale can produce the form he showed in the victory against Kashima Antlers on a more regular basis.

The Wales international scored a hat-trick as Real beat the Japanese team 3-1 in the semi-finals of the Club World Cup.

Real Madrid, who are fourth in the La Liga table, five points behind leaders Barcelona, are 1/25 to win the Club World Cup for the third consecutive year.

Bale has been criticised for some of his displays this season as Real have struggled since selling Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus in the summer.

"We are all expecting this kind of performance from him [Bale] every Sunday, every Wednesday – every time we play," Solari said.

"Of course, it is not easy to score three goals every game but I don't just mean the goals, but also the commitment – he has had this commitment in the last games.

"Today everything was perfect for him; but he can achieve this because he was committed before. He's shown what he is and what he's capable of doing. We are happy with him and we hope he can do it in the final, too."

Real can be backed at 9/1 to beat Al Ain of the United Arab Emirates 1-0 in Saturday's final.

Al Ain defeated South American champions River Plate on penalties in the first semi-final.

Meanwhile, Real are 6/1 to win the La Liga title this season and 12/1 to triumph in the Champions League once again.

La Liga: No Easy Win For Real Madrid, Valencia

Real Madrid vs Valencia

Last year’s third and fourth-placed La Liga clubs meet this weekend with high hopes of getting back on track and climbing further up the table.

Real Madrid and Valencia are currently out of the top four places, with Los Blancos at sixth with 20 points and Los Che at 11th with 17. Both teams have been up and down this campaign, setting up this highly anticipated and must-win encounter at the Bernabeu.

As usual, the Madrid side is the favourite heading to this match. Besides, they are playing on their turf and in front of a supportive home crowd.

However, make no mistake, Valencia have proven time and time again that they can hold their ground against the best—as they showed in their Champions League draw with Manchester United last month and a narrow defeat to Juventus recently.

Talking Points

The start of the Santiago Solari era at Real Madrid couldn’t get to a better start. Los Blancos have won five of their six games so far under the Argentine, including a 5-0 rout of Vikotira Plzen and a 0-2 drubbing of Italian giants Roma in the Champions League.

While Real Madrid have every reason to be happy, however, they know they are far from perfect. As they learned in their 3-0 defeat to Eibar in La Liga last weekend, they are still prone to going back to their old habits under Julen Lopetegui.

Against Eibar, they were passive and lacked any sense of haste. Conceding three goals in less than one hour was also reminiscent of their poor start under Lopetegui, a spell which saw them keep only three clean sheets and allow 14 goals in ten matches.

If there’s any silver lining for the team, it’s the fact that the duopoly of Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema is having some sort of a renaissance.

Of course, fans have seen it (and actually expected it) under Lopetegui, especially with the two players now the primary option for the Cristiano Ronaldo-less Real Madrid. However, it’s telling that they have been involved in seven of the team’s 17 goals under Solari.

La Liga powerhouse Real Madrid are thriving under new boss Santiago Solari

Santiago Solari during Los Blancos’ training session

Bale has recorded two goals and an assist in their last six matches, while Benzema has four markers and two deliveries.

On the other hand, Valencia are almost in the same position as Real Madrid. They entered the season with high expectations after their fourth-placed finish last year, but they flopped big time and were in the front page of most La Liga 2018 news after failing to win in their opening six games.

Fortunately for them, they are on a roll and have won their last two games in the Spanish top flight. They survived 0-1 against a feisty Getafe side before thrashing new boys Rayo Vallecano to the tune of a 3-0 scoreline.

It’s also good news that Santi Mina seems to be rediscovering the form that netted him 15 goals last campaign. The 22-year-old forward scored twice against Young Boys in the Champions League earlier this month and also had a double in Valencia’s victory over Rayo Vallecano.

Valencia midfielder Francis Coquelin admitted that beating Real Madrid at the Bernabeu is one of the most difficult tasks in football, but he is confident that they are capable of pulling off a surprise.

“Real Madrid are always Real Madrid,” Coquelin told Marca.”If they play their best then they are very difficult, especially at home.”

“But we are in a good moment of form and we are going to try to win. I think we can do things, mark our territory and show we can be near the top of the table.”

History

Real Madrid have dominated over Valencia in the past, but recent history suggests that the narrative could be changing.

Sure enough, Los Blancos defeated Valencia 1-4 in their last meeting. However, it should be noted that Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice in that game. Their last battle at the Bernabeu ended all square, 2-2—during which Madrid had to fight back after leading by one and then trailing.

Real Madrid have only lost two competitive matches at home this season, but Valencia have been solid on the road as well with only two away defeats. Los Che also have a penchant for pulling of stalemates on away games.

Betting Tip

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Real Madrid vs Valencia 1X2 Draw @ 4.20
December 02, 03:45 (GMT+8)

Looking at the quality and depth of both teams, it’s easy to see why the La Liga 2018 odds at us have Real Madrid dominating and putting up a one-sided show.

Nonetheless, given their history and Valencia’s current form, I can’t help but disagree. Besides, this is a Valencia team that narrowly lost to Juventus.

Valencia are a pretty stubborn team, and while I think Madrid are the much better team offensively, I can see this game ending in a draw. With that said, it might not be wrong to bet with Asian Handicap too!

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Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

 

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Champions League: Roma Rue Missed Chances Against Real

Roma 0-2 Real Madrid

us fans could have been forgiven for thinking the drama of a Champions League night in the eternal city was over before it had even begun.

CSKA Moscow’s failure to defeat Viktoria Plzen in the teatime kickoff meant both sides took the field knowing they had qualified for the last 16, regardless of this result.

So, in theory, this could be a fairly relaxed night and a gentle return to the stadium where new Real boss Santiago Solari scored his first Champions League goal, right?

Not one bit of it—there was a group to be won!

Highlights of the game

The Giallorossi were finding out they had qualified at around the same time as club legend Francesco Totti was addressing the home fans after he was inducted into the club hall of fame.

The club’s all-time leading appearance holder and goalscorer looked emotional as he received a special club shirt and his Twitter feed said it all.

His arrival certainly livened up the crowd, and if the earlier result had made this become somewhat irrelevant, it didn’t show in the intensity as both clubs knew the winners would probably top Group G.

It doesn’t always work out that way, of course, but the victors also knew they were far more likely to face a potentially more straightforward task in the knockout stages, given many of the European giants lead their groups.

There was a blow for both teams before kickoff.

Although centre-back Kostas Manolas was deemed fit to play, Daniele De Rossi and Diego Perotti were not, nor was frontman Edin Dzeko—22 career goals in the competition and the top-scorer in this season’s Champions League, level with Lionel Messi on five goals.

That meant Patrik Schick came into Eusebio Di Francesco’s side hoping to open his account in Europe.

For Los Blancos, there was no Isco (reportedly disgruntled at being left out), as well as Casemiro or Marco Asensio, the latter took his place on the bench.

While we anticipated some Champions League 2018 highlights, few expected a repeat of the one-sided meeting in Madrid in September. After all, much has changed since then.

There was plenty to keep fans entertained, however, with Dani Carvajal forced into a desperate clearance after an early cross from Cengiz Under with Stephan El Shaarawy in hot pursuit.

He slipped as he tried to connect and the unfortunate Italian’s evening was virtually over.

Before El Shaarawy made way due to injury moments later, it was home goalkeeper Robin Olsen’s turn to be called into action, parrying a wickedly deflected shot from Luka Modric.

Teammate Toni Kroos, whose last-gasp goal in the World Cup beat Olsen and Sweden (although Olsen’s team had the last laugh), also tested the goalkeeper. However, it was the hosts who looked slightly more dangerous.

First, Schick scuffed a cross from the dangerous Aleksandar Kolarov before substitute Justin Kluivert, subbed in for El Shaarawy, fired high and wide from a dangerous position.

Only the reflexes of Thibaut Courtois denied Schick moments later before a vital block kept out the rebound from Steven Nzonzi. Kolarov also drilled narrowly wide.

Cengiz Under failed to put Roma on the scoreboard during their Champions League match with Real Madrid

AS Roma’s Cengiz Under is being consoled by Alessandro Florenzi after he missed a chance to score against Real Madrid

Under’s miss of an open goal on the stroke of halftime is something that will be shown time and time again in the days ahead, especially that it meant Real survived to the break with their defence intact.

It was to prove costly.

Within a minute of the restart, a poor header from Federico Fazio went straight to Gareth Bale and the Welshman made no mistake.

Another key block from Carvajal denied Roma. Bale would have grabbed his second but for the onrushing Olsen.

After Florenzi and Kluivert failed to take two more chances, clinical Real sealed victory.

This time, it was Lucas Vazquez who sealed the victory for the reigning European champions after a header from Karim Benzema took the ball into his path.

Game over and Marcelo and Benzema all went fairly close to extending the advantage.

For all of Kolarov’s prompting, Roma were beaten and Real had a fine win as they chase a record fourth successive Champions League title.

Key statistics

These two sides have become familiar UEFA Champions League foes in the in the past two decades. This was their 12th meeting, all of which happened at the turn of the century.

Roma have only won once in five home games against Spanish visitors and only two of their last 12 matches against Spanish (drawn two, lost eight).

What’s next?

The Champions League 2018 betting odds favour Real to top the group and that is now confirmed.

Roma have a Sunday showdown with Inter Milan and a trip to Cagliari to play in Serie A before they complete their group stage matches with a visit to Plzen.

Madrid host Valencia in La Liga next before playing minnows Melilla in the Copa del Rey. They also travel to newly promoted Huesca in the league before rounding off their UCL Group G fixtures by welcoming CSKA to the Bernabeu.

 

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Bale cleared for Denmark clash

Real Madrid ace Gareth Bale is fit to feature for Wales in their crucial Nations League clash with Denmark at the Cardiff City Stadium on Friday evening.

The 29-year-old forward picked up a slight ankle injury during his club's 4-2 La Liga win over Celta Vigo at the weekend, but Wales head coach Ryan Giggs has confirmed that Bale has recovered well and will feature.

He told reporters: "He's fine. Obviously, he arrived a little bit later than the rest of the group, but he's looked good this week and he's ready.

"He had a little bit of a different programme earlier in the week, but the last couple of days he's been good."

Meanwhile, Giggs also spoke of the importance of trying to defeat the Danes and secure top spot in their group, a place which would see them earn a second chance of qualifying for Euro 2020 should they need it.

He added: "There are a lot of incentives to top the group. First of all to win a really competitive group would be great.

"Then you get a second bite of the cherry with regards to qualifying for the Euros if you don't qualify automatically.

"It has an effect on the seeding for the euro draw as well. We started off wanting to win, it is a new tournament. We wanted to win the first one and it is in our hands now."

Wales are priced at 7/4 to defeat Denmark, with the draw available at 11/5, while both teams to score in the game is a 11/10 shot.

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Bale missing for Wales

Gareth Bale has been ruled out of Wales' Nations League match against the Republic of Ireland and is returning to Read Madrid for treatment.

Bale has a groin injury which has ruled him out of recent Real Madrid games and also caused him to miss Wales' 4-1 defeat to Spain on Thursday.

Manager Ryan Giggs said after that game that Bale remained a doubt for Tuesday's match in Dublin and now the Football Association of Wales have confirmed that he will miss the game and return to his club.

Speaking after the Spain defeat Giggs confirmed he wanted to make a decision quickly on whether Bale would be available to face Martin O'Neill's side.

He said: "We'll make a decision in the next couple of days because then we have to prepare for the game.

"If Gareth is not available we have to prepare to see what team we're going to play, so we'll make it sooner rather than on the day."

Wales are 11/5 to win the game with the Republic of Ireland 6/4 and the draw is 19/10.

Ipswich winger Gwion Edwards has already been called up by the Welsh as possible cover for Bale.

He could make his first appearance for the Welsh senior side on Tuesday as could Sheffield United defender Kieron Freeman who has also been drafted in by Giggs with injury doubts surrounding Ethan Ampadu and Chris Mepham.

Tuesday night's game is the third for the Welsh in the Nations League. They are currently second in Group B after beating the Irish 4-1 at home but then losing 2-0 to Denmark.

Real meanwhile will hope to have Bale available as soon as possible after the international break as they face three big games in eight days; La Liga clashes against Levante and Barcelona with a Champions League clash against Viktoria Plzen in between.

Real Madrid are 11/4 to win La Liga with Barcelona 4/6.

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Giggs planning for Bale absence

Wales head coach Ryan Giggs says it is highly unlikely that Gareth Bale will be able to feature in the Nations League clash with the Republic of Ireland on Tuesday evening.

The Real Madrid forward was absent as the hosts were crushed 4-1 by Spain in a friendly international on Thursday, with Bale reported to be suffering from 'muscle fatigue'.

And Giggs is expecting to have to plan for the game in Dublin without his star performer.

He told reporters after a difficult evening at the Principality Stadium: "It is very unlikely at this point.

"It's nothing serious but obviously the closer we get to the game, we have to make a decision and at the moment it is unlikely."

Meanwhile, Giggs warned his side that they simply have to do the basics right if they want to compete with top-class teams like Spain, adding: "We came up against a very good team.

"They are comfortable on the ball and when they lost it they got it back quickly – all the things we knew.

"The disappointing thing for me was not doing the basics. In football you have to do the basics right, even if you come up against an average team.

"But when you come up against a really good team and don't do the basics right, you're in trouble."

Wales can be backed at 9/4 to win their Nations League group, with Denmark 2/5 and the Republic of Ireland 12/1.

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Enrique seeks committed showing

Spain head coach Luis Enrique has warned his players not to take things easy when they face Wales in a friendly international in Cardiff on Thursday evening.

La Roja have seen off both England and Croatia in their opening two Nations League games, making a perfect start to life under new boss Enrique, who took charge following a disappointing showing at World Cup 2018.

And Enrique is keen to see no let-up in application against Wales, with another Nations League clash with England just around the corner.

He told reporters: "We've had a few training sessions, but only one where the level of intensity has been very high.

"The attitude in everything that surrounds the team is important – and the value of this game is huge. There are no points, but we are in a process where no match can be wasted – that is the message to the players."

Meanwhile, Enrique is keen to see how Wales fare without Garteh Bale, with the Real Mdrid forward missing due to a groin injury.

He added: "It seems a sensible move due to the injuries he (Bale) has had, but it is a positive for Spain.

"The Wales that we have analysed is one with Bale. He improves two great qualities that Wales have, which is speed and transition. We shall see what type of national team Wales is without him.

"It's a notable absence for Wales, but it does not change anything for us."

Spain are priced at 2/5 to win in Cardiff and are 5/1 to claim a 2-0 victory, with the visitors 4/5 to keep a clean sheet.

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