Aaron Ramsey ruled out of Wales' European Qualifier vs Slovakia
Watch Slovakia vs Wales from 7pm on Thursday live on Sky Sports Premier League; Kick-off 7.45pm
Last Updated: 09/10/19 8:57pm
Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey has been ruled out of the European Qualifier against Slovakia on Thursday due to injury.
The 28-year-old has remained in Cardiff in order to concentrate on regaining full fitness for Sunday's game against Croatia.
Ramsey was withdrawn from warming up at half-time during Juventus' 2-1 win at Inter Milan on Sunday after feeling what boss Maurizio Sarri described as "a twinge".
Wales manager Ryan Giggs said on Wednesday evening: "He has a chance for Sunday. He just had a little bit of tightness in his abductor.
"He then had to travel, he got with us on Monday evening, did a bit on the grass today. The physio has stayed back to work with him over the next couple of days and we're hopeful that he'll be available for Sunday."
Wales are fourth in Group E but a win over second-placed Slovakia on Thursday would take them level on nine points with their opponents with a game in hand, and Giggs knows they must be vastly improved away from home after summer defeats in Croatia and Hungary.
"We need to play better, but the circumstances were different in the summer," Giggs said. "Some players hadn't played for five weeks. You can always lose in football, but it is how you come back that's important."
UEFA had originally ordered for the game to be played behind closed doors, with Slovakia fans found guilty of making 'illicit chants' during last month's victory in Hungary.
Slovakia won their appeal against the fans' ban, saying the chants had been political rather than racist, and there will be a 20,000 sell-out crowd at Trnava's Anton Malatinsky Stadium.
UEFA's three-step protocol for racial abuse ends with the officials abandoning a match if announcements inside a stadium do not stop the problem, but Giggs says he has not spoken to his players about the issue.
"It is not something Wales have really experienced, I think a bit with the U21s," Giggs said. "It is not something we have really talked about.
"We recognise racism is a problem, but I don't like to pre-empt what might happen. Hopefully we just have a good game of football with no problems."
Sky Sports News reporter Geraint Hughes in Trnava, Slovakia...
Why is this game important?
Simple… Wales have automatic qualification from the group in their hands. The win over Azerbaijan last month and a combination of results involving the other protagonists in Group E meant that, although Wales are fourth in the group, they are only three points behind Slovakia and Hungary and four points behind leaders Croatia. Crucially, however, Wales have a game in hand on those countries.
So a scenario exists whereby if Wales win both Thursday's match against Slovakia and then the home game against Croatia on Sunday they could, and I do mean could, be top of the group. Conversely, if it all goes wrong, Wales will be in dire trouble because we are at the stage now in Group E where every result counts, every match has something to play for.
I would like to say it is all about the flair players, that Gareth Bale and Dan James flying down the flanks are the key to any Wales success in Trnava but, in reality, I get the feeling after speaking with Ryan Giggs that it is going to be a very close game and miserly defences could be key.
Wales, despite the attacking talent they possess, have only scored four goals during the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign, but they have only conceded four goals and that is after having to contend with Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic and co. in Osijek in June where they lost 2-1 in a 33-degree-celsius roasting tin of a stadium.
Defence, defence, defence. Even Gareth Bale admitted to me that it is something Wales have been specifically working on and he is part of the understanding that attacking players need to defend in certain areas.
Where Wales have an issue, rather than a concern, is at centre-back. Bournemouth's Chris Mepham is injured when he and Swansea's Joe Rodon had looked like forming a really good partnership. Mepham is doing well under Eddie Howe, Rodon is being tipped for big things. However, Giggs has a decision to make, play Ashley Williams who is now playing regularly at Bristol City or Tom Lockyer who is playing well at Charlton. Wales will want that solidity at the back to prevail in Slovakia - it is a key selection for Giggs.
Support inside the stadium
Rewind a few weeks and this match was going to be played behind closed doors. No supporters. Wales fans had done nothing wrong, UEFA had put the measure in as punishment for chanting and banners on show when Slovakia and Hungary last met. There are ethnic tensions between migrant populations of the two nations.
However, Slovakia overturned the original punishment on appeal, so rather than the strange, surreal atmosphere of an empty stadium playing host to a very competitive match, there will be an atmosphere created by fans. And not just the home support. Wales hope to bring approximately 2,000 fans to Trnava.
Wales' travelling supporters are a hardy bunch, they have witnessed some appalling results over the years, but have also been part of some of Wales' greatest moments in recent times and the players feed off this passionate support. Silence the home crowd, I guarantee the melodic strains of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau will be heard and will spur the Welsh players on just that extra one per cent that sometimes makes all the difference. It is small things like this that can turn a 0-0 into a 0-1 away victory or help to inspire a valuable draw if needed.
Back to Cardiff and what a challenge in store - Croatia on Sunday. If the visit to Slovakia goes well then what an occasion it could be at the Cardiff City Stadium. The game will mean so much, three points, yes, but it would also see the two sides jostling for top spot in Group E. The perception of Ryan Giggs among some Welsh fans could change - maybe he is the right man, maybe his philosophy works, maybe the players can play the way he wants with consistently successful results. It could also be the precise opposite…
November brings the final two games in Group E, away to Azerbaijan on the 16th and then home to Hungary on the 19th.