Belfast Telegraph

Wales v Northern Ireland: Coleman targets a perfect send-off for Welsh crowd

By Phil Blanche

Northern Ireland's visit to the Cardiff City Stadium will represent a Euro 2016 send-off for Wales in front of their own supporters.

The Welsh will conclude their Euro 2016 build-up with friendlies in Ukraine on Monday and Sweden at the start of June.

And manager Chris Coleman expects a traditional physical British battle against Michael O'Neill's Northern Ireland, a fixture arranged to replicate the challenge of Euro 2016 opponents England in Lens on June 16.

"I would imagine it will be feisty and that's what we want," said Coleman. "I know Michael's mentality and he will want that as well. He will want a proper game and that's what it will be.

"When we play these teams, be it England, Scotland, Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland, we don't want to lose to a neighbouring country."

Defender Ben Davies (head) and Tom Bradshaw (hamstring) have joined a lengthy Wales injury list which already includes Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey, Hal Robson-Kanu, James Collins, Andy King and Paul Dummett.

Davies and Bradshaw should be fit for Monday's game in Kiev and Coleman accepts this is an opportunity for some of the younger boys to impress.

"I wasn't disappointed that we had a few pull-outs because we're able to see one or two new faces in these games," said Coleman.

"We're not always going to have Balo (Bale) or Rambo (Ramsey) and we have to adjust and adapt. Those two players would get in any team and, of course, we're going to miss them."

Coleman goes into this double-header with talks over his new contract to take in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers on hold.

Those discussions will resume next month and Coleman said he had been flattered by reports linking him to Aston Villa and his hometown club Swansea.

"It's always nice if someone is interested," said Coleman. "There's good managers out of work and there's only so many jobs. My focus is here. I'm the manager of Wales. We've got Northern Ireland, Ukraine then Sweden then we go into a tournament, which is where we've always wanted to be."

Coleman has welcomed Uefa's announcement not to play Euro 2016 games behind closed doors.

Uefa executive committee vice-president Giancarlo Abete, speaking in the wake of the Brussels attacks on Tuesday, said the possibility of playing games behind closed doors in France this summer could not be excluded.

But Uefa ruled out that out yesterday, expressing confidence in their security measures.

Coleman said: "That's good news. If that happens (playing behind closed doors) we've reached a time where our life and our freedom will change forever - for the worse. We would be giving in to the mindless few."

Belfast Telegraph


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