Gareth Bale's Real Madrid woes have no bearing on Wales v Croatia, says Luka Modric

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Croatia captain Luka Modric says Gareth Bale‘s problems at Real Madrid will not affect him while on Euro 2020 duty for Wales.

Bale comes up against his Real team-mate and great friend Modric in Osijek on Saturday having suffered a nightmare end to the season at the Bernabeu.

The Welshman was dropped from the starting XI, and boss Zinedine Zidane even refused to bring him off the bench in the final La Liga game when Los Blancos were losing 2-0 at home to Real Betis.

Real are reportedly keen to get Bale off the wage bill this summer and have already signed Serbia striker Luka Jovic from Eintracht Frankfurt for £52.4million, while also being close to completing a club-record £130m move for Chelsea’s Eden Hazard.

“It’s very different to play for your club or in international football,” said Modric, who revealed he had not spoken to Bale ahead of the Group E qualifier at the Stadion Gradski vrt.

“There’s no correlation in form between those two.

Modric was key as Croatia reached the World Cup final last summer.

Modric was key as Croatia reached the World Cup final last summer.

“I know what playing for the Welsh national team means to Gareth, so I don’t think his lack of minutes for Real Madrid will influence his performance.

“I expect him in top shape. We have to stop him as well as we can, we have to limit the great talent he has.”

World Cup finalists Croatia started their Euro 2020 qualifying programme with a 2-1 home victory over Azerbaijan in March.

But they were stunned by Hungary three days later, losing 2-1 in Budapest, as Wales opened their campaign with a 1-0 home win over Slovakia.

“After Hungary, we have no space for other bad results,” Modric said.

“We expect a very tough match against an opponent I think, along with Croatia, is the best in the group.

“Wales is a very good, organised team. Gareth is obviously their best player but they have a lot of good players, especially going forward.”

The searing heat in Osijek has been an area of concern with the game set to kick-off at 3pm local time.

Wales manager Ryan Giggs spoke about the importance of giving players “the right information on hydrating” for the game, with the temperature at kick-off expected to touch 30 degrees.

Bale has endured a torrid season at Real, but comes alive for Wales.

Bale has endured a torrid season at Real, but comes alive for Wales.

Giggs’ players could even have ice baths before the game and also at half-time to help them cope with the heat.

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic was critical of the decision to stage the game in the afternoon and accused UEFA of disrespecting his side.

“It’s going to be hot,” Dalic said. “I don’t know who made the decision – UEFA did.

“Croatia is second in the world and they should have shown us more respect. It’s going to be difficult for the players but it’s the same for both teams.”

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Ryan Giggs insists Daniel James' impending move to Man United has not disrupted Wales

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James scored the winner on his first Wales start in their Euro 2020 qualifier against Slovakia in March.

Wales manager Ryan Giggs insists Daniel James‘ impending move to Manchester United has not disrupted preparations for their Euro 2020 qualifier against Croatia.

James was at United’s Carrington training ground on Thursday morning ahead of his transfer from Swansea, just hours before Wales flew to Osijek for Saturday’s meeting with the World Cup finalists.

The 21-year-old winger is set to complete the switch, which is understood to be in the region of £18million, including add-ons, next week after Wales’ Euro 2020 qualifier in Hungary.

“We had a relaxed day on Thursday,” Giggs said when asked if James’ United medical had forced him to miss training.

“That’s how we structured the week, to get the work in early and then Thursday was just a case of going through a few things.”

Giggs was clear last week that he did not want any of his players involved in contract talks with clubs ahead of Wales’ Euro 2020 double-header with Croatia and Hungary.

But at his press-match conference in Osijek, the United legend said: “You have to be flexible because you don’t want things weighing on players’ minds.

“So if it’s sorted it’s better for us and for the player as well. He’s fine and he’s trained well. Obviously after the terrible news (the recent death of his father Kevan) we had to be flexible.

“A lot has gone on over the last 10 days, but Dan has been fine around the group.

“We’ll have to see whether he starts for us but, if it (transfer) does happen then United are getting an exciting player that I know that Man United fans will get behind and enjoy watching.”

Giggs confirmed at Osijek’s Stadion Gradski vrt that Ben Davies is available for both Euro 2020 qualifiers after his groin surgery was postponed.

It had been previously thought that the Tottenham full-back would only play against Croatia.

Wales start the game as big underdogs given Croatia’s exemplary home record.

Croatia have never lost a European Championship qualifier at home since their first match in the competition in 1994. They have also gone 23 home games unbeaten in all competitions.

Wales also have to contend with the fierce heat in Osijek, with the temperature expected to be around 30 degrees when the game kicks-off at 3pm local time.

“It’s hard to prepare,” Giggs said. “The weather wasn’t quite like this in Wrexham.

Ryan Giggs

“We went to Portugal for some heat and the breeze cooled it down a little bit. We’ve got to make the right preparations and give the players the right information on hydrating.

“It’s an old school stadium. It has a big history and it’s always a big challenge when you come away, especially against World Cup finalists and a team which has players like (Luka) Modric.

“I was talking to Chris Mepham on the way here about my experiences as a player. The first time I went to Galatasaray as a player we were welcomed at the airport with a sign which said ‘Welcome to hell’ and there were 5,000 people there.

“You know it’s going to be a challenge, but it’s our job to silence that and turn that into pressure on the home team.”

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Gareth Southgate refuses to criticise Man City defender John Stones

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John Stones' horrendous error led to the Dutch taking a 2-1 lead.

John Stones retained the backing of England manager Gareth Southgate after his error started England’s downfall as they slipped to Nations League semi-final defeat against the Netherlands.

Fan disorder made way for a gripping clash at the sold-out Estadio D. Afonso Henriques in Guimaraes, where far fewer supporters are likely to be in attendance for Sunday’s third-place play-off against Switzerland.

England had been hoping to face Portugal in the finale and looked on course for a shot at their first trophy in 53 years as Southgate’s side reacted well to Matthijs De Ligt cancelling out Marcus Rashford’s first-half penalty.

Jesse Lingard thought he had filled the role of super-sub as he coolly turned home in the 83rd minute but joy quickly turned to despair as the Video Assistant Referee ruled out the strike for a narrow offside.

Matters would get even worse in extra-time as a shocking mistake by Stones led Kyle Walker to turn into his own net, with England then conceding a third as a Ross Barkley error allowed Quincy Promes to seal Holland a 3-1 win.

But Stones’ error was the decisive moment and former Three Lions defender Southgate refused to criticise the Manchester City defender.

Rashford's penalty put England ahead.

Rashford’s penalty put England ahead.

“I think we’ve had some players who, at the end of the season, have found it difficult in terms of amount of minutes on the pitch – and others having the complete opposite,” Southgate said.

“I think fatigue has played a part tonight, a lack of match sharpness. I’m asking them to play in a way that puts them under huge pressure at the back.

“If we didn’t play that way, we wouldn’t have got to the semi-finals we’ve got to, and we would never progress to being a top team because you saw the way Holland played that way as well.

“They also made a really poor error at the back. But I have got to be there to support John because he’s going to get criticism after tonight.

“But himself and Harry (Maguire), the way we ask them to play, they take huge strain of the game on their shoulders and they’re incredibly courageous to do that.

“So, that’s the way I believe they can play and we should play, and we didn’t lose because of how we wanted to play. The errors were uncharacteristic, really, and not errors that we would make.

“I’ve got to not overreact to those things and I have got to be there to support them in what is a difficult moment for everybody.”

Southgate also explained the reasoning behind his decision to leave all seven players involved in Saturday’s Champions League final on the bench.

Liverpool trio Jordan Henderson, Joe Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold were joined in the dugout by Harry Kane, Eric Dier, Dele Alli and Danny Rose of Tottenham.

“In terms of the individual players, they weren’t ready to start the game,” he said.

“We wanted some young players to have the experience of a night like tonight, and they deserve that experience because they’ve been playing well.

“You can look in hindsight at some of those decisions, but we started and finished with the right people on the pitch.”

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