Ryan Giggs was optimistic Wales superstar Gareth Bale had only suffered from cramp as he hobbled out of a combative clash with Croatia on Sunday.

Bale scored Wales' equaliser in Cardiff as they drew 1-1 with Group E leaders Croatia in Euro 2020 qualifying, although the result leaves Giggs' men with plenty of work to do.

The Real Madrid winger was one of three Wales players who appeared to take a knock, with Dan James recovering from an early blow, Ethan Ampadu later substituted off, and Bale then limping badly after indicating a calf issue.

Giggs assured both James and Ampadu were fine, while he was hopeful on Bale's status.

"Gareth's just got a bit of cramp towards the end," he told Sky Sports. "He didn't want to come off, though.

"It was a fantastic performance from Gareth, it was just a shame that he did get that - it was about 10 minutes really at the end, so we were down one player really.

"But it looks like it's just cramp."

The James and Ampadu incidents were both rugged aerial challenges that earned yellow cards, while Luka Modric injured himself while hacking at Harry Wilson.

Giggs cut a frustrated figure on the sidelines but insisted his issue was with Croatia slowing Wales' attacks rather than with the strength of the tackles.

Asked if he was upset by Croatia's approach, the coach replied: "Yeah, a little bit. But they're smart players.

"It's not about looking for players to get booked - they're just stopping our flow, which they're good at. It's something we need to get better at.

"They're smart. Good players and smart, as well. It was more the stopping of the flow of us counter-attacking that I was complaining about really. It's a physical game and we've come through it well."

Wales must now win their remaining two matches - against Azerbaijan and Hungary - and hope Slovakia drop points, but Giggs is happy with the permutations.

"We're in it. After these two games [including a draw in Slovakia], I wanted to be in it," he said. "We've got two games which won't be easy against two tough teams.

"We'll look forward to those games - it's exciting. Get it down to that second game with Hungary here."

James added: "[Croatia] have shown what a great team they are, top of the group. They came here and I know we lost in the summer but it was about bouncing back from that. Today, we got a good result."

Real Madrid looked to be dealt a double blow on Sunday as Luka Modric and Gareth Bale both picked up injuries on international duty.

Croatia's Modric travelled to Wales hoping to secure their Euro 2020 qualification but was frustrated as Madrid team-mate Bale netted an equaliser in a 1-1 draw in Cardiff.

Neither side was able to force a winner, yet they each ended the match hindered by issues to their key men.

Modric was booked for wiping out Harry Wilson a minute from time but injured himself in the process and had to be helped from the pitch by Croatia's medical staff.

As Modric received treatment, Bale turned to the Wales physios as he appeared to indicate an issue with his calf.

While Modric was substituted, Bale played on through the eight minutes of stoppage time, clearly limping and remaining on the field merely to make up the numbers.

Gareth Bale says he wants to finally get one over on Luka Modric when Croatia visit Wales in Euro 2020 qualifying.

The Real Madrid team-mates will be the two biggest stars on show for Sunday's Group E game in Cardiff.

Croatia lead the pool on 13 points with Wales six back in fourth spot, although Ryan Giggs' side have a game in hand.

Wales drew away to Slovakia on Thursday, Bale sustaining a knee injury, but he is expected to be fit to face Croatia.

The forward is looking forward to testing himself against Ballon d'Or winner Modric, Croatia having won the reverse game 2-1 in June.

"Whenever we have played we've always lost by one goal and it’s always been quite a tight game," Bale told reporters.

"We know what a great team they are, they had a great World Cup and they have shown year after year how good they actually are.

"We know it is going to be very tough, but I think being at home gives us a little bit more of an advantage and we know the Welsh crowd will be behind us.

"We've played together for a long time in Tottenham and Real Madrid so we know each other quite well. It would be nice to get one over on him finally because they have beaten us a few times in the past."

Bale is one booking away from missing a qualifier through suspension, which he accepts will be on his mind against Croatia.

"I can't make too many silly tackles or anything, I have to be mindful of that," Bale said. "I don't want to miss any games for Wales and especially at the crunch time of the group.

"I guess I have to be clever with what I'm doing but maybe I have to expect that someone is going to wind me up to get me suspended."

Gareth Bale admitted to playing with "anger" amid uncertainty over his Real Madrid future heading into Wales' Euro 2020 qualifier.

Zinedine Zidane told Bale he was free to leave during the transfer window, however, the Wales star remained in Madrid to force his way into the team.

Bale has scored two goals and supplied two assists in LaLiga this term, though there has been reports claiming the 30-year-old wants to depart the Spanish capital at season's end.

Speaking ahead of Thursday's qualifier against Slovakia, Bale said: "You play with a lot of emotion. Anger comes into it of course, but I haven't got anything to clear my mind about.

"I try and give my best whether here [with Wales] or in Madrid and I will continue to do that."

Wales manager Ryan Giggs added: "I think now, looking from the outside, things have improved. The way that he's playing - which is all that footballers want to do, they want to play, they want to get minutes, they want to do well - I've always said he's at a fantastic club.

"Of course, it would have unsettled him because it was apparently very close for him going.

"But things might have changed. Things do change quite quickly in football and now he's playing, he's loved, he's happy, and I expect him to carry on doing what he's doing for Real Madrid.

"If Gareth Bale is at your club and he's training well and he gets the chance to play, he's always going to keep you interested because he can turn a game on its head, he can score goals and he's such an asset.

"So I'm not surprised in that respect. I was surprised with what happened in the summer - I think everyone from the outside thought it was a bit strange, but it seems like everything has gone a bit quiet now.

"I think that's all you ask for - for players to be in good form for their clubs and then take it into the international arena."

Wales head to Trnava fourth in Group E in Euro 2020 qualifying, four points adrift of leaders Croatia and three behind second-placed Slovakia.

As pressure builds on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, there is speculation Manchester United are already looking around for future managers.

According to reports, one such potential candidate is a man making waves in the Bundesliga, now with RB Leipzig.

Even though Solskjaer appears to have the backing of United's hierarchy, the time might come to look to the future - just like the club's former manager Jose Mourinho, who has his eye on a comeback.

 

TOP STORY - UNITED CONSIDER NAGELSMANN

Manchester United are interested in Julian Nagelsmann as a future manager, according to the Daily Mail.

Just 32, Nagelsmann has impressed in the Bundesliga, initially with Hoffenheim and this season at RB Leipzig.

Although Ole Solskjaer still has support at the club despite their worst league start for 30 years, it is reported by the newspaper that United are "gathering information" on Nagelsmann with a view to a future approach to take charge of the first team.

ROUND-UP

- Jose Mourinho, is plotting a Premier League return and is keeping an eye on Mauricio Pochettino's situation at Tottenham, according to the Daily Mail.

- Whatever happens with the United manager job, transfer plans for next year are already being drawn up. The big names being eyed for next season are Kalidou Koulibaly and Declan RiceGoal reports.

- In Italy, Juventus have made it clear they will not sell Paulo Dybala in the January transfer window, Calciomercato says. Dybala was linked with United and Spurs in the previous window.

Gareth Bale, meanwhile, considers being left out of the Champions League draw with Club Brugge to be the final straw at Real Madrid, and he wants out next year, AS claims.

- Finally, in more news concerning United bosses of the past, the Mirror and the Daily Mail say there is a growing chance David Moyes could return to Everton if the under-fire Marco Silva is sacked, with the Scot now odds-on in some places to take charge again.

Dani Ceballos says the revivals of Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez at Real Madrid does not make him regret leaving Los Blancos for Arsenal.

Bale appeared certain to depart the Spanish capital for Chinese Super League side Jiangsu Suning after being ostracised by Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane, before the board pulled the plug on the deal.

James' future was equally unclear after he returned from a two-year loan spell at Bayern Munich, but rumoured interest from Napoli and Atletico Madrid failed to materialise.

Both players have subsequently featured regularly for a Madrid side sitting top of LaLiga after eight matches, two points clear of Clasico rivals Barcelona.

Spain international Ceballos opted to make the move to the Premier League with the Gunners on loan after struggling for regular minutes at the Santiago Bernabeu over the past two seasons.

Ceballos has featured on 11 occasions in all competitions so far and is content with the decision he made as he was not enjoying life in Madrid.

"Madrid is pretty good. Yes, they've had many injuries but I don't feel sorry for not being there," he told a news conference while on international duty.

"I know what I have in my head and that was to play and enjoy. I am very happy at Arsenal, I played 10 (11) games where I showed my best level. Now I am where I want to be." 

When asked about Bale and James' upturn in fortunes at Madrid, he replied: "My idea was clear from the outset, play and enjoy football because in the previous two years I had not and I have been successful going out to Arsenal."

Ceballos also paid tribute to Madrid great Sergio Ramos, who is set to become Spain's outright most-capped player during the international break – where Spain face qualifiers against Norway and Sweden – having equalled Iker Casillas' tally of 167 last month.

"Sergio Ramos has won everything at the club and national team level," he added. 

"Despite having a lot of experience he continues to demonstrate the ambition of a young man, that ambition makes him different from the others."

Thibaut Courtois has been left out of Real Madrid's squad to face Granada a few hours after the club denied he has an anxiety problem.

Goalkeeper Courtois was substituted at half-time in Madrid's Champions League draw with Club Brugge in midweek, with head coach Zinedine Zidane saying the player "wasn't well and couldn't continue".

It was subsequently claimed in media reports that the former Chelsea man was affected by anxiety, yet a club statement denied this on Friday, instead revealing he is suffering with gastroenteritis.

As such, Courtois was not named in the Madrid squad to face LaLiga surprise package Granada when Zidane announced his 19-man squad later the same day.

Alphonse Areola, who replaced Courtois against Brugge, will be joined by Castilla goalkeepers Javier Belman and Diego Altube in the group.

Lucas Vazquez and Vinicius Junior both featured in the European clash but were left out of this selection, with James Rodriguez, Gareth Bale and Rodrygo Goes returning.

Zidane had already confirmed Madrid were considering starting Eder Militao at left-back due to a number of defensive injuries, with Marcelo, Ferland Mendy and Nacho all out. Alvaro Odriozola is another option.

Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez are not included in Real Madrid's squad for their Champions League clash with Club Brugge.

Madrid were thrashed 3-0 by Paris Saint-Germain in their Group A opener, with Bale and James both starting at Parc des Princes.

Bale had a goal disallowed after Angel Di Maria had put PSG two up but was later taken off, while James was replaced by Luka Jovic.

But Madrid have now confirmed neither Bale nor James - who both featured against Atletico Madrid - have been included in Zinedine Zidane's squad for Brugge's trip to Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday, while Rodrygo Goes also misses out.

Eden Hazard and Karim Benzema are selected, as is Vinicius Jr. They are joined by Marcelo, who was not available for the Madrid derby.

Sergio Ramos is set to make his Champions League return after missing the PSG defeat due to suspension, while Isco also returns from a hamstring injury which has kept him out since the end of August.

Zinedine Zidane has left Gareth Bale out of the Real Madrid squad to face Osasuna at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday.

Madrid could potentially go top with a third successive LaLiga victory but head into the midweek clash without winger Bale.

According to reports in Spain, the Wales international has been rested with a view to keeping him fresh for Saturday's derby date with Atletico Madrid.

Bale has forced his way back into Zidane's plans this term, starting five competitive matches and scoring twice after almost leaving for China.

Ferland Mendy, only recently recovered from a hamstring issue, will also miss the Osasuna match after suffering an abductor injury in his left leg.

Isco, Luka Modric and Marcelo all remain unavailable despite being described as "about ready" to return at Zidane's pre-match news conference on Tuesday.

Chris Coleman has defended Gareth Bale's reserved nature and revealed the oft-criticised Real Madrid winger can speak perfect Spanish.

Wales star Bale almost left LaLiga for China during a turbulent close season in which Zinedine Zidane attempted to force him out of the Santiago Bernabeu.

The pair's relationship reportedly became fractured as Madrid fans showed increasing coldness towards the four-time Champions League winner, their treatment of him described as a "disgrace" by the player's agent.

Criticism of Bale has tended to centre on his speculated inability to learn Spanish as part of a wider reluctance to integrate into the country's culture.

Coleman, who managed the former Tottenham talisman for over five years at international level, believes such accusations are at least in part unfounded.

"I saw John Toshack saying Gareth hasn't given enough of himself to the public in Madrid," the former Wales boss told The Athletic.

"Well he's never done that. It's not his character. When he comes home he plays golf, stays with his family, in his little circle.

"I just thought it was unfair when people were picking him apart. He should do this, do that. No, be yourself. If he's not happy in his head he won't be right on the pitch.

"I've been with Gareth in Madrid, in a restaurant, and he's speaking perfect Spanish, ordering food, greeting people.

"He was very polite, but it's his own space. He has done all his talking on the pitch. He is the most decorated foreign import from the UK."

Bale was Coleman's key man when Wales exceeded expectations by reaching the semi-finals at Euro 2016.

Coleman stepped down the following November to take up an ill-fated opportunity at Sunderland, with Ryan Giggs named as his replacement.

Performances have not been entirely convincing but the former Fulham manager expects his successor to prove a shrewd appointment.

"I think he'll be good at it," Coleman said. "He is different to me and will do it his own way. Ryan's quiet, but he's super strong mentally."

He added: "Ryan's ego is not big enough where he thinks he's got all the answers, because none of us have. This is his first job, we mustn't forget that. He's going to get better and better."

Zinedine Zidane has opposed Gareth Bale's view of being made a scapegoat at Real Madrid while praising the winger's "amazing" ability.

Wales international Bale almost moved to Chinese side Jiangsu Suning during the transfer window after being told he was free to leave Madrid.

Los Blancos boss Zidane made the decision following months of speculation over their seemingly fractured relationship but the Madrid board blocked his departure at the last minute.

Bale, while on international duty last week, claimed to have been "made more of a scapegoat than most" for the team's shortcomings, a belief not shared by his head coach.

"No, I think we're all guilty if things go wrong or if things go right," Zidane said.

"It's up to us, all of us, we're all in the same boat. We want to change things when things don't go right. We're thinking as a team mentality."

Initially on the outer during the pre-season tour to the United States, Bale has since returned to the first-team fold.

The 30-year-old started each of three club's three LaLiga games before the international break, scoring twice.

"I've always said he's got amazing quality, Gareth Bale," Zidane said.

"He's a great player. What happened in the summer, everyone knew the situation. Now he's here, I'm happy, he's happy, everyone is happy, the fans as well.

"Now we have to move forward."

Bale's reinstatement to the starting XI has partly reduced the opportunities for Vinicius Junior, who has been restricted to one start and a pair of cameo appearances this term.

Zidane, though, is adamant chances will come for the young forward.

"I completely trust Vinicius, I can guarantee that," the Frenchman said.

"I'm his coach. I've got 23, 24 players to choose from but Vinicius is just 19, he's playing for Real Madrid.

"It's like everything, things take time. He's in a process to improve, like all players are. Perhaps at times he won't play because someone else will come in.

"Then you go and get your headlines, you say 'he doesn't want to pick Vinicius' but that's not the point. He will play."

Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos labelled Gareth Bale a "great player" and backed his team-mate after a difficult off-season.

Bale was tipped to leave Madrid with a shock move to the Chinese Super League on the cards, however, the Wales star remained at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Unwanted by head coach Zinedine Zidane, Bale – who has won four Champions League titles and LaLiga among other honours since arriving from Tottenham in 2013 – has featured in all three LaLiga matches this season, scoring a brace in Madrid's 2-2 draw with Villarreal last time out.

Amid criticism of Bale and his reported disconnect from the Madrid squad, Ramos told the Daily Mail: "I think Bale's a great player and he's been really important for the club in the years he's been with us.

"You find many things in the press. Some are true, some are not. We live in this world and we have to try to be above all that.

"Regarding what has been said about Gareth, I think time puts everything in place. Regardless of what each player does in his personal life, I think it should be respected and not even talked about. We're free to do what we want with our free time.

"Of course, professionally, you owe yourself to a team, to a club, and you try to be as honest as possible. Afterwards, it's up to each person to go home with a clear conscience or not."

Doubts over Bale's future came after Zidane returned for a second spell in charge of Madrid towards the latter stages of the 2018-19 campaign.

Zidane oversaw three successive Champions League triumphs before leaving in 2018, however, the Frenchman returned following the departures of Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari.

Madrid finished third in LaLiga last season as their Champions League defence ended in the last 16, while the Spanish giants are four points off the pace with just one win in three games this term.

"He remains the same person. He keeps his essence as a manager. He has more experience," Ramos said of Zidane. "I would sum up in essence he is the same person, but better because he has more experience."

Ramos, who equalled the record for most Spain caps with his 167th international appearance in Euro 2020 qualifying, added: "Of course after a winning streak for a long time, there's a turning point. Yes, we stopped winning. But there isn't a component of the team that is tired of winning. It is just something that happened and we have to reset and restart. We have new people in our team.

"We will always be a contender to winning. You are forced to win every year. We have to get rid of a bad season and we have more hunger to win and more hunger for competition. I think this will be a good year and we have to do things right from the beginning."

Gareth Bale says he would be wasting his time playing for Wales if he did not believe Ryan Giggs' side could qualify for Euro 2020.

Bale salvaged a victory for Wales on Friday, with his late goal securing a 2-1 home win over Azerbaijan.

The win lifted Wales on to six points from their four games in Group E, and though they sit in fourth, they are only three points behind joint-leaders Croatia and Hungary.

Slovakia are level with Wales as it stands, and the sides will face off in what could be a crucial qualifier on October 10.

Though Bale acknowledged the squad are still working on adapting to Giggs' desired style of play, he is in no doubt Wales - semi-finalists at Euro 2016 - can qualify for next year's tournament.

"Yeah definitely, I wouldn't be here otherwise, I would not be wasting my time," Bale told a news conference ahead of Monday's friendly against Belarus.

"I love playing for my country, I love trying to qualify for major tournaments and having that taste of it at Euro 2016 gives you that hunger to do it again and to experience what we did.

"We all still fully believe we can and we hope the public still believes and give us all the support we need because they're the 12th man.

"I think we're still working on things and there's things we're improving on. We're working on [Giggs'] style of play, what he wants us to do and sometimes it does take a bit of time.

"I think that's why it's good now to have a friendly. A match situation is always more intense and more difficult to do things than in training.

"We still want to keep that winning mentality and get that momentum building and by winning games that's what you do."

Bale's header against Azerbaijan took the 30-year-old four clear of Ian Rush as the leading scorer in Wales' history with 32, and the Real Madrid forward acknowledged he has a target of international goals in mind.

"I've got a little target in my head but it's just one of those personal goals," Wales' captain added.

"If I achieve it, great, but if I don't then it's okay. It's something I'd like to do but the most important thing is to win games for my country and to give fans something to cheer about."

Ryan Giggs does not think Wales' slender 2-1 win over Azerbaijan is anything to be alarmed about, reminding his critics World Cup finalists Croatia only beat Nikola Jurcevic's men by the same score.

Wales dominated much of the Euro 2020 qualifier at Cardiff City Stadium on Friday, taking the lead fortuitously in the first half when Gareth Bale's deflected effort looped into the area and was diverted past the stranded goalkeeper by the oblivious Pavlo Pashayev.

Azerbaijan were back on level terms just before the hour, as Neil Taylor gifted possession to Ramil Sheydaev and he fed Mahir Emreli, who slotted home on the rebound after Wayne Hennessey haplessly fumbled the initial tame effort right back to the forward.

Luckily for Wales, Bale – who was otherwise disappointing – nodded in six minutes from time to secure the win.

Wales fans have been extremely critical of Giggs in recent months, though he looked to calm those concerned by Friday's performance, highlighting Croatia's identical result.

"[Bale's goal] was huge – we needed that win no matter how we got it," Giggs said. "Obviously we wanted to play well, score lots of goals, but sometimes football is like that.

"You have to show character. The lads worked hard. It's the same score Croatia beat Azerbaijan by at home, so they're not an easy team to play against, they're good on the counter.

"We had no excuses tonight and we haven't going forward. We need to play better, show the same character, but be better on the ball."

Despite their dominance, Wales struggled to carve out clear-cut chances and break their visitors down but Giggs insists he knows what went wrong.

"In the first half we just didn't stick to the plan," Giggs added. "When we did [stick to the plan], we looked dangerous.

"We created chances, space, but we were in too much of a hurry to get up the pitch instead of making Azerbaijan run.

"When we made them run, moved the ball quickly, that was when the spaces appeared. There were too many players who weren't on form, but we worked hard, I can never fault the way they worked, the character they've shown, because it's not easy. I'm delighted with the character shown."

The result leaves Wales third in Group E, three points behind top two Hungary and Croatia.

Gareth Bale scored a late winner to keep Wales' Euro 2020 qualification hopes very much alive with a 2-1 triumph over Azerbaijan in Cardiff on Friday.

Ryan Giggs' men looked to be heading for a thoroughly underwhelming stalemate, but Bale – who was otherwise poor – came up trumps six minutes from time to keep them in the hunt in Group E.

Wales were dominant in the first half and played the ball around nicely, though clear-cut chances were hard to come by, with the hosts having to rely on a freak Pavlo Pashayev own goal to take the lead.

They had similar issues after the break and a costly combination of errors from Neil Taylor and Wayne Hennessey allowed Mahir Emreli to equalise, but Bale - back among the goals at club level with Real Madrid - nodded in towards the end to rescue Giggs' side.

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