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Bale set to return to Madrid’s squad after injury layoff

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MADRID (AP) Gareth Bale is expected to make his return to Real Madrid’s lineup in a Copa del Rey match this week after being sidelined for more than two months because of injuries.

Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane says the Wales forward has recovered from a left leg muscle injury and will play at least part of Tuesday’s match against Fuenlabrada at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

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Madrid won the first leg 2-0 against the third-division club.

Bale hasn’t played since Madrid’s 3-1 win at Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Sept. 26. Plagued by injuries this season, his latest ailment came in practice while trying to recover from another muscle injury.

Reports: Chris Coleman steps down with Wales to accept Sunderland job

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Chris Coleman has been a hot name in the managerial game after making noise with Wales at the 2016 EURO Championships.

[ MORE: Man United looks to rebound against Newcastle ]

It appears the 47-year-old is about to embark on a new adventure though, with several reports indicating that Coleman will take over at Sunderland, who currently plays in the English Championship.

The Welsh FA revealed the following statement on Friday:

“We are extremely disappointed to see Chris’ tenure as Wales manager come to an end,” said Chief Executive Jonathan Ford.

“The FAW and Wales as a nation will be eternally grateful for the job he has done over the last six years as National Team Manager, from travelling the length and breadth of Wales outside of the media spotlight to talk to players and supporters, to guiding us to the semi-finals of the European Championships.

“We wish Chris the very best of luck for the future as he returns to club management, a desire for which he has always been honest and open about.”

The Black Cats currently sit dead last (24th place) in England’s second flight on 10 points through its opening 16 matches.

Sunderland finished the 2016/17 season at the bottom of the Premier League table, before being relegated ahead of the current campaign.

[ MORE: Pogba, Ibrahimovic, Rojo could return this weekend for Man United ]

Coleman helped guide the Welsh to the semifinals at EURO 2016, where his side fell to eventual champions Portugal. The Welsh had never previously qualified for the European Championships and hasn’t reached the World Cup since 1958.

UEFA Wrap: Rep. of Ireland beat Wales; Iceland qualifies for World Cup

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Call it luck of the Irish, or call it whatever you want.

The dream is still alive for the Republic of Ireland National Team.

The Boys in Green secured a place in the UEFA World Cup qualification playoff round with a 1-0 win on the road over Wales in Cardiff. James McClean‘s second-half strike inside the box was enough to keep Ireland alive while ending the campaign for Wales, which finished in third place.

It may not have affected the outcome, but Wales were without Gareth Bale due to a left calf injury. Following McClean’s goal in the 57th minute, Wales pressed and pressed, peppering the Ireland backline with chips and crosses into the box. But Ireland captain David Meyler led his side to keep a clean sheet as Ireland hung on to win.

Here’s a look at some other UEFA World Cup qualifying action.

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O’Neill upbeat as Ireland faces Wales in World Cup qualifier

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DUBLIN (AP) Ireland manager Martin O’Neill is upbeat over his team’s chances of beating Wales in their must-win soccer World Cup qualifier in Cardiff on Monday.

“It’s there for us, let’s go for it,” O’Neill told Irish broadcaster RTE after their 2-0 win over Moldova on Friday.

[ MORE: USMNT thrashes Panama in crucial World Cup qualifier ]

Two goals from Daryl Murphy gave Ireland victory, while Tom Lawrence‘s strike was enough for Wales to win 1-0 at Georgia and keep both sides in contention to reach Russia.

Top spot in Group D and automatic World Cup qualification is still up for grabs too after leaders Serbia slipped to a 3-2 defeat against Austria. Serbia can secure a spot in Russia with a home win over Georgia on Monday.

Wales is second, a point behind Serbia, with the Irish another point further back.

The group winner qualifies automatically for the finals in Russia. The best eight second-place finishers from the nine groups in Europe advance to the playoffs.

“It’s great. We know what we have to do, we have to win a game. We have to win a game in Cardiff and the chances are there for us,” O’Neill said.

Ireland hasn’t qualified for a World Cup since 2002. Wales’ last appearance was in 1958, when it reached the quarterfinals. Chris Coleman’s Welsh team reached the semifinals at Euro 2016, inspired by Gareth Bale.

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Bale missed Friday’s win over Georgia and is also out of the showdown with Ireland after he picked up a calf injury playing for Real Madrid.

There is better news for Ireland, with James McClean and Robbie Brady available after they both served one-match suspensions. Team captain Seamus Coleman and striker Jon Walters miss out due to injury.

UEFA wrap: Spain clinches, Iceland grabs control

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There were certainly surprises in UEFA on Friday.

Serbia opened the door to Group D’s automatic spot, while Spain clinched the 11th berth in Russia thanks to another big win and a shocking draw between Italy and Macedonia.

[ MORE: U-17 World Cup Day 1 roundup ]

Wales and the Republic of Ireland found new leases on automatic qualifying life, while Group I remains quite murky.


GROUP D

Georgia 0-1 WalesRECAP

Tom Lawrence of Derby County stepped up with a goal in the absence of Gareth Bale, as Wales made sure to put pressure on Serbia with the first result of the day.

Austria 3-2 Serbia

Crystal Palace man Luka Milivojevic scored in the 11th minute to put Serbia on the precipice of Russia, but Guido Burgstaller knotted it up 14 minutes later.

It stayed 1-1 until Stoke City’s Marko Arnautovic scored only to find an answer for Serbia in the form of Manchester United’s Nemanja Matic.

Yet Louis Schaub scored just before stoppage time to provide an intriguing final day to qualifying.

Republic of Ireland 2-0 Moldova

Daryl Murphy scored twice in the first 19 minutes to set up a massive final match at Wales on Monday

Matches and scenarios:

Monday
Wales vs. Ireland
Serbia vs. Georgia
Moldova vs. Austria

The read: Serbia can still advance automatically by holding serve against Georgia, but a draw would open the door to Wales or Ireland and Georgia proved no pushover for Wales on Friday. The Welsh can ensure no worse than second at home by beating Ireland, while either winner would pass a losing Serbia.


GROUP G

Italy 1-1 Macedonia

Giorgio Chiellini darted into the heart of the six to pass home a goal which sealed Italy’s place in the playoffs, though it was Aleksandar Trajkovski’s 78th minute goal which assured the Italians would not catch Spain.

Spain 3-0 Albania

Rodrigo, Isco, and Thiago Alcantara all scored before the match was a half-hour old to stylishly insure a spot in Russia.

Liechtenstein 0-1 Israel

Eitan Tibi’s 21st minute goal was the lone marker.

Scenarios: Spain wins group. Italy will head to the playoffs. Imagine, as it stands, the possibility of Italy vs. Portugal over two legs for a World Cup berth.


GROUP I

Turkey 0-3 Iceland

Johann Gudmundsson (Burnley), Birkir Bjarnason (Aston Villa), and Kari Arnarson (Aberdeen) scored to banish Turkey from qualification and put Iceland in the driver’s seat for a trip to Russia.

Kosovo 0-2 Ukraine

It was a second half own goal that kept Ukraine’s World Cup hopes alive, and set up a critical final day between Ukraine and Croatia in Kiev.

Croatia 1-1 Finland

Mario Mandzukic broke through in the 57th minute, but Pyry Soiri scored in stoppage time to score a fine result for Croatia and put Iceland in the Group I driver’s seat.

Matches and scenarios:

Monday
Ukraine vs. Croatia
Iceland vs. Kosovo
Finland vs. Turkey

The read: Iceland is through to Russia with a win. There are other scenarios to send Iceland through, including with a loss (That would require a Ukraine-Croatia draw).

Croatia can advance to Russia with a win and an Iceland draw or loss, and would currently finish second if it draws Ukraine.

Ukraine can finish first if it beats Croatia and Iceland loses to Kosovo, or if Iceland draws and Ukraine beats Croatia by more than a goal. Other scenarios exist, but are more complicated.

Turkey is now out.