Roy Keane says his Republic of Ireland players should enjoy facing one of the world’s best when Gareth Bale and Wales visit for Friday’s World Cup Qualifier.
The Irish are unbeaten and top of Group D heading into the game against last summer’s Euro 2016 semi-finalists, who are four points back in third.
Bale’s three goals helped inspire Wales’ run to the last four in France, and Keane expects the Real Madrid forward to have an influence at the Aviva Stadium whatever preparations Ireland make.
„Bale has done that for a number of years for Madrid and on the big occasions. I can’t say we have any particular plan, but having said that, we will respect all the Welsh players.
„They have got some good players around Bale who give him that foundation to go and express himself, so that’s why he has a big impact on all their results, whether it be goals or assists. The stats will tell you that.“Do you know what? Our lads should look forward to the challenge of playing against the best. You want to play with the best and against the best, and we’ll have a chance on Friday because Bale is up there with some of the top players in the world, there is no getting away from that. Brilliant player.
„I have always liked him. I even liked him when I was manager at Sunderland. He came up with Southampton and he was the best player on the park. I think he equalised in injury time and was excellent – and that was at left-back.“
O’Neill’s squad has been depleted by injuries and Robbie Brady’s suspension, with Daryl Murphy the latest casualty and James McCarthy still a doubtShane Duffy, Ciaran Clark, Harry Arter and Wes Hoolahan are also missing, but Keane said: „We’ve got a good group of players and we’ll be ready for Friday night. There’ll be no excuses. We’ll have 11 lads starting, we’ll have lads off the bench..