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Coleman: We can nullify Bale just like we did with Ibrahimovic

By Damien Spellman

Seamus Coleman has challenged the Republic of Ireland to do to Gareth Bale what they did to Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Euro 2016 to strengthen their grip on World Cup qualification.

Much of the talk in the days building up to tonight's showdown with Wales in Dublin has surrounded the Real Madrid star (right) and how best the Group D leaders can cope with his danger.

But having seen his team largely becalm Sweden talisman Ibrahimovic in Saint-Denis as they launched their Euro 2016 finals campaign in France last summer, skipper Coleman is confident they can do the same to Bale.

He said: "We are a team which has played against big players in the past - I remember when we played Sweden in the summer all the talk was about Zlatan and it's quite similar this time.

"But we are fully focused on our job and looking forward to the game. We were getting asked the same questions in the summer about certain players and you have got another 10 players on the pitch you have got to worry about.

"We know he's a world-class player and we are going to have to be careful and get tight to him in certain areas, but we can't just fully focus on Gareth Bale."

Coleman needs no reminding of just how good Bale can be having had to deal with him in the wake of one of his finest performances in a Tottenham shirt back in October 2010.

Three days after the former Southampton trainee had scored a Champions League hat-trick against Inter Milan at the San Siro, Coleman and his Everton team-mates travelled to White Hart Lane and secured a 1-1 draw.

He said: "When he was doing really well against the likes of Inter Milan I was a right midfielder, and whenever we played them it was a doubling-up job with Phil Neville."

Manager Martin O'Neill was giving nothing away on his plans to shackle Bale, but admitted there would be times when the 27-year-old Welshman would hurt the Republic.

O'Neill said: "Of course there are going to be moments in matches when great players extricate themselves from difficult positions and cause you problems - that's why they are great players. It's that type of thing that we will try to cut to a minimum if we can. But naturally being a brilliant player he will cause us problems."

O'Neill has spent the past few days mulling over his options with Robbie Brady ruled out through suspension and Shane Duffy, Ciaran Clark, Harry Arter, Wes Hoolahan and Daryl Murphy by injury.

However, Everton midfielder James McCarthy still has a chance of playing some part - no doubt to the consternation of club boss Ronald Koeman - after training on Thursday for the second successive day as he battles his way back from a hamstring problem.

Asked if McCarthy's recent lack of match action would deter him from selecting the player, O'Neill said: "Well, it wouldn't really. If he hasn't played for two-and-a-half weeks and he feels okay, that wouldn't necessarily deter me from doing it."

Given the circumstances, O'Neill admits the Republic may have to reproduce the kind of heroics they did to secure their place in the knock-out stages in France with a do-or-die victory over Italy if they are to emerge with a positive result on Friday.

He said: "I think we will have to produce a performance like that. I think the players are ready for it. That effort against Italy is not a distant memory and players that were involved against Italy can call upon that experience again and go for it."

  • Rep of Ireland v Wales, World Cup Qualifying Group D: Aviva Stadium, Today, 7.45pm

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