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Wales boss Chris Coleman could hand a surprise place to Gareth Bale if the Tottenham winger is fit to face Republic of Ireland on Wednesday.

Bale has been at the centre of one of the biggest stories of the close-season, as speculation continues to mount that he could be about to make a world record move to Spanish giants Real Madrid.

The 24-year-old has not featured for his club since July 16, with Tottenham claiming that injury rather than any thoughts over his future have been the reason behind his omission from their pre-season campaign.

Bale’s latest absence came against Espanyol on Saturday, as he sat out a 1-1 draw with the Spanish club at White Hart Lane due to a foot problem.

However, he has been included in the Wales squad for the international friendly on Wednesday, and Coleman expects him to report for duty and will select him if fit.

“I’ve always tried to pick our strongest squad,” the Wales manager said ahead of the clash. “There’s no friendlies for us with the FIFA and UEFA rankings, we’ve got to be as high as we can.

“That means every game is important and we’re not in a position to say ‘leave this player or that player out.’

“We need to win games and we need to keep climbing.

“When he’s in the team – a player like that – you’ve got half a chance. It never crossed my mind to leave him out.”

Wales have not beaten Republic of Ireland since 1992, but they head into the clash in some kind of form.

After losing six of their seven games in 2012, they started 2013 well with back-to-back victories over Scotland and Austria, although they lost their last outing at home to Croatia.

Coleman’s side have six points from six FIFA 2014 World Cup qualifying games and sit fourth in Group A, with any hopes of making the finals in Brazil in 2014 extinguished.

Meanwhile, Giovanni Trapattoni’s Ireland side saw their unbeaten run in 2013 – six games – ended with defeat to Spain in June.

They still retain hopes of making the World Cup, although they face a battle with Austria and Sweden for the runners-up spot in Group C.

The three countries are all level on 11 points after six games, with Trapattoni’s side facing their nearest rivals in their next two qualifying matches.

Robbie Keane, Richard Dunne and Richard Stearman have all been left out of the squad as the Italian coach looks to give some youngsters an opportunity.

These two sides have not met since February 2011 when goals from Darron Gibson, Damien Duff and Keith Fahey saw Ireland run out 3-0 winners in Dublin.

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