BELGRADE (Reuters) - The absence of suspended pack leader Gareth Bale and several other regulars should not stop Wales from firing on all cylinders against Group D leaders Serbia in their World Cup qualifier, manager Chris Coleman said on Saturday.
“We have a strong squad here and we are happy with the players we’ve got so there will be no complaints from me come what may tomorrow night,” Coleman told a news conference ahead of Sunday’s clash in the cauldron of Red Star’s stadium.
”(Bale) is who he is, he is one of the best players in the world but I firmly believe we have enough about us to get what we need here.
”Any team would miss him but you don’t win with one player and you don’t lose because of one player.
“It will be a big challenge and I am looking forward to it. I am confident we have enough in our ranks to get a positive result.”
Serbia top the group with 11 points from five games, with second-placed Ireland level on points but behind on goal difference ahead of their home game against Austria.
Third-placed Wales have seven points after a patchy campaign saw them win one and draw four matches, with Coleman ruing a missed opportunity to beat the Serbians when they drew 1-1 in the reverse fixture in Cardiff.
”We really should have beaten Serbia at home as we did enough to win but they equalised straight after we’d hit the post,“ he said. ”That’s football and the margins are so small.”
Wales will also be missing suspended defender Neil Taylor and injured striker Hal Robson-Kanu, leaving Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey in the spotlight as the man to pull the strings against an adventurous home side.
Coleman said he had full confidence the playmaker would be up to the task in a raucous atmosphere, with 50,000 home fans expected to throng the ground.
“He is a vital player for us and I look at Aaron even when Gareth is there,” said Coleman.
“It’s a game we can’t lose and we are up against the strongest team in the group. There’s everything to play for and it’s a great game for us to be involved in.”
Captain Ashley Williams added: ”As a team we live for these nights. It doesn’t always come off but as of late this is the kind of game that we love when you’re up against it in a different country.
“We are a very resilient and gritty team. This is an opportunity for us to show our togetherness and hopefully get the result we want.”
Editing by Clare Fallon