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Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Spain should ease past a weakened Wales in Cardiff

Gareth Bale's injury a big blow for the hosts

Spain's midfield maestro Saul Niguez shrugs off a Harry Kane challenge
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Sky Sports Football/S4C, 7.45pm Thursday

Wales’ slender hopes of upsetting Spain in Cardiff have been dealt a huge blow by the injury to their talisman Gareth Bale and the absence of their all-time leading scorer could see the confident visitors run out ready winners.

Record-breaker Bale has netted 30 goals from just 72 appearances for his country and his unavailability makes things tough for manager Ryan Giggs, who has won just two of his five games in charge.

Wales were emphatic 4-1 winners over Ireland in September's Nations League opener. However, just three days later they were handed a reality check with a 2-0 defeat in Denmark, where they managed just one shot on target. 

That reverse in Aarhus highlighted how far the Euro 2016 semi-finalists currently are from competing with Europe's elite and Bale's absence should make things even easier for giants Spain.

The Welsh squad lacks experience and quality and with Tuesday's important trip to Ireland being their main priority this week, Giggs is likely to give his youngsters a chance in this game.

Ethan Ampadu, who is waiting for a first-team chance at Chelsea, and 20-year-old Brentford defender Chris Mepham started both the September Nations League matches, while teenagers Tyler Roberts, Ben Woodburn and Matthew Smith were all given playing time.

The talented youngsters can provide plenty of positives for the future but it looks a little early in their development for them to be tackling Spain, who should capitalise on their inexperience.

La Roja showcased their attacking talents in impressive Nations League triumphs over England (2-1) and Croatia (6-0) last month and their squad depth means Luis Enrique is sure to field a strong side.

Isco is sidelined but Saul Niguez can shoulder his creative responsibilities in midfield, while Marco Asensio, influential in the dismantling of World Cup finalists Croatia, could make hay against inferior opposition.

Wales have a terrible record in friendlies and, minus Bale, could struggle to breach Spain's world-class rearguard.

Spain to win to nil
1pt Evs Betway, Coral, Ladbrokes

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Team news
Leading marksman Gareth Bale will miss out and he could be replaced by Harry Wilson. Aaron Ramsey should be fit to feature.

Isco is missing as he recovers from appendicitis. Dani Carvajal, Sergi Roberto and Diego Costa are all sidelined through injury. Jordi Alba was not included in the squad, but Wolves full-back Jonny is.

Key stat
Wales have failed to score in four of their last five friendlies.

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Wales have failed to score in four of their last five friendlies
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