Wales star Gareth Bale admitted he is relieved to be available to face Croatia in Sunday’s crucial Euro 2020 qualifier after escaping a red card in Slovakia.
Bale had already been booked when he fouled Slovakia defender Milan Skriniar in the closing stages of the 1-1 draw in Trnava on Thursday.
The Real Madrid forward could have been shown a red card that would have ruled him out of the Croatia clash in Cardiff.
But he was also hurt in the collision and spent a couple of minutes needing treatment before play resumed with no punishment.
“I’m fit and I’m fine, it was just a knock on the knee and a bit of ice has sorted that out,” Bale said on Saturday.
“I was more worried about getting sent off to be honest. I was just happy to get away with that one!
“But saying that, I didn’t think the first one deserved a yellow, so maybe it evened itself out.”
Bale’s second yellow card of Euro 2020 qualifying means another booking would see him suspended.
Wales, who trail Group E leaders Croatia by six points and are three adrift of second-placed Slovakia, with a game in hand on both, finish their campaign with November games against Azerbaijan and Hungary.
“I can’t make too many silly tackles, I have to be mindful of that,” Bale said.
“I don’t want to miss any games for Wales, especially at the crunch time of the group.
“So I have to be clever with what I’m doing, but maybe expect someone’s going to rile me to get me suspended.
“I’m experienced enough to get through the period without picking up another booking.”
Wales have failed to win in five previous encounters with Croatia and Bale would love to end that run against his Real team-mate Luka Modric.
“We know each quite well, as we’ve played together for a long time in Tottenham and Real Madrid, and it would be nice to get one over on him finally,” Bale said.
“We’ve not spoken yet, maybe there will be a little message later on.
“They’ve beaten us a few times in the past, but it’s always been a tight game between us.
“We know what a great team they are. They had a great World Cup and shown year after year how good they are.
“But playing at home gives us an advantage and we’ve had some great results against some big teams in our stadium.”
Wales will make a late decision on Aaron Ramsey’s fitness after the Juventus midfielder, who is yet to feature in the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign, missed the Slovakia game while he recovers from a thigh problem.
“We have not ruled Aaron out. He’s on a different schedule, he didn’t travel to Slovakia with the team and stayed back with the physio,” Wales manager Ryan Giggs said.
“So we’re just giving him all the time we can and (will) see how is in the morning (on Sunday).”
Zinedine Zidane promised changes but it was a retro Real Madrid that gave the revolution a winning start on Saturday as Gareth Bale led the way in a 3-1 victory over Celta Vigo.
Bale was back in the team and back in form at Balaidos, with Zidane’s eagerness to move him out this summer still perhaps in his mind as he teed up Karim Benzema’s opening goal.
Celta saw a potential equaliser chalked off before half-time. Then Real’s Luka Modric was sent off 11 minutes inti the second half but a stunning 30-yard shot from Toni Kroos put Madrid firmly back in control.
By the time Lucas Vazquez added a delicious third, at the end of a silky passing move, it was possible to wonder where this Madrid have been for the last 12 months, particularly as this starting line-up included not a single summer signing.
Zidane wanted Paul Pogba but it was Casemiro, Modric and Kroos in midfield, the same trio he picked for the Champions League final in 2018.
The coach also started Marcelo, arguably Madrid’s worst performer last term, and Bale. Only last month Zidane had said it would be “best for everyone” if the Welshman were sold.
Eden Hazard, who injured his thigh in training on Friday, will certainly start when he is fit again and there will be much tougher opponents than Celta, who finished 17th last season and were dead and buried before Iker Losada delivered a late consolation.
But, after a poor pre-season, Zidane needed a positive opening. This one was made all the sweeter by Barcelona’s defeat by Athletic Bilbao on Friday night.
Celta spent much of the match feeling aggrieved, no more so than after Benzema scored after just 12 minutes.
The home team claimed a foul by Casemiro in the build up. After that, Bale still had a lot to do, his dart one way and then the other freeing space for a drive towards the near post, where Benzema reacted fastest.
Early on, Bale was everywhere, blocking a cross in his own penalty area before being unleashed on the break, his rasping shot pushed away by Ruben Blanco.
Celta also had their moments. Gabriel Fernandez’s lunge was just short at the back post. Brais Mendez tapped in after the impressive Denis Suarez robbed Alvaro Odriozola and Iago Aspas made the final pass.
Aspas, however, had strayed offside as VAR spared Odriozola’s blushes. The referee, Javier Estrada, departed to a chorus of whistles at half-time.
Benzema and Aspas both spurned chances soon after the restart before Modric was sent off for an innocuous late challenge on the heel of Suarez. Estrada consulted the review and was left in no doubt.
Nestor Aruajo headed the ball straight at Thibaut Courtois but just as Madrid seemed about to give way, Kroos produced his thunderbolt from 30 yards, the ball cannoning down off the crossbar and in.
That knocked the stuffing out of Celta. They went three down when a brilliant team move, involving Isco, Benzema and Marcelo, found Vazquez free at the back post.
Bale had been replaced by Isco, exchanging a hand slap with Zidane as he went, before Losada prodded home in injury-time.
Gareth Bale’s unexpected reintegration at Real Madrid continued on Saturday when he was a surprise inclusion in the starting line-up to play Celta Vigo.
Zinedine Zidane had been keen to sell Bale this summer but admitted on Friday that “things change” and he was now counting on the Welshman this season.
Bale was left out of the squad completely for three pre-season games but returned for the final friendly against Roma, coming off the bench in the second half.
An injury to Eden Hazard has opened a spot up front alongside Karim Benzema, and Zidane has chosen Bale ahead of the likes of Luka Jovic, Lucas Vazquez and Isco.
Bale was close to leaving in July but Madrid cancelled a deal with Chinese club Jiangsu Suning while the winger’s salary of around 18 million euros a year has proven too high for other interested clubs.
Bale reportedly prefers to stay at Madrid, where he has a contract until 2022, and is not interested in moving to Paris Saint-Germain, despite suggestions he could be included in a bid for Neymar.
“It looked like he was leaving and now he’s here with us, that’s it,” Zidane said.
“The dynamic changes and things change and now I’m going to count on him like everyone else. I said it a short time ago, I’m going to count on all the players that are here.”
Zidane had promised wholesale changes but none of the club’s five summer signings started against Celta.
Hazard and Ferland Mendy are both out injured while Jovic and Eder Militao were on the bench. Youngster Rodrygo is still gaining experience with the reserve team.
Gareth Bale’s stand-off with Real Madrid continued on Wednesday after the forward was left out of Zinedine Zidane’s squad to face Red Bull Salzburg in a friendly.
Bale has only played in two of Real Madrid’s five pre-season games so far, coming on as a substitute against Arsenal and Atletico Madrid, and has now been left out completely for the third fixture in a row.
James Rodriguez and Mariano Diaz, who are both expected to be sold, were also not included for the match in Austria.
Zidane has made clear that Bale is not in his plans as he looks to rejuvenate Real Madrid following their miserable season last term.
The club are keen to sign Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, with Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen and Ajax youngster Donny van de Beek potential alternatives.
But Madrid first need to raise funds, after already spending around 300 million euros ($336 million) this summer.
Zidane said last month that Bale being sold would be “best for everyone”, while Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett told AFP: “Zidane is a disgrace – he shows no respect for a player that has done so much for Real Madrid.”
Bale is in no rush to leave the Santiago Bernabeu, where he has a contract until 2022, worth around 18 million euros a year.
He agreed to terms with Chinese Super League club Jiangsu Suning last month but the move was called off after Madrid failed to agree to a fee for the 30-year-old.
Bayern Munich retain interest but any deal would be hugely expensive, making it increasingly likely Bale will remain at Madrid for the start of the La Liga season next weekend.
Gareth Bale’s future at Real Madrid took another twist when he was left out of the Spanish side’s squad for two friendly matches in Munich, starting with Tuesday’s game against his old club Tottenham Hotspur.
“Bale did not travel in order to resolve his future,” Spanish sports daily Marca reported on Tuesday, adding that Real Madrid were still in talks with Chinese side Jiangsu Suning who had offered the Welshman a three-year-deal worth £1 million ($1.1 million) a week.
However, the Chinese club appear to have shut the door on Bale and sports daily As says he could be headed for a Premier League return.
“Bale wanted to stay (at Real Madrid) but Zidane has made that impossible,” said As.
“The preferred destination for Bale is the Premier League which closes its transfer window on August 8. There are only 10 days to find a team there.”
Real Madrid held up the proposed transfer to Jiangsu Suning on Sunday in a dispute over the fee and the Chinese club announced Monday they had signed Croatian striker Ivan Santini from Anderlecht instead.
Bale, 30, has been at the centre of transfer talk since Zinedine Zidane returned as coach of Real in March.
The Frenchman has made no secret of his desire to offload Bale who joined Real Madrid in a then world record £85 million move from Tottenham in 2013.
The Spanish press has been mooting a possible return to Champions League finalists Tottenham although Bale’s salary demands are likely to be far beyond the pay structure at the north London club.
Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett has already insisted that any deal which sees the Welshman leave the Bernabeu would have to be a permanent one and not one that sees him shipped out on loan.
“Gareth is one of the best players on the planet. I can guarantee you he will not be going on loan to any club,” said Barnett.
Bale was not the only familiar name missing from the 24-man squad for Munich. Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who shipped seven goals last week against Atletico Madrid, is injured while James Rodriguez came back late from holiday after playing for Colombia in the Copa America.
Following the Spurs match, Real will face either Fenerbahce or Bayern Munich on Wednesday.