Cyprus vs Wales – Match preview and team news: Gareth Bale hoping to lead Dragons to historic qualification

Wales can all but guarantee a place at the Euro 2016 finals in France if they return from Cyprus with all three points and claim their fifth win in seven qualifiers.

The win over Belgium in June was confirmation that Chris Coleman’s men are establishing themselves as a force in international football, lifting them miraculously into the top 10 of the world rankings. Talisman Gareth Bale seized on a defensive mistake to grab the only goal against the group’s seeded team, and he has more than enough quality to propel the team towards victory here, having scored twice for Real Madrid at the weekend.

After six games each, qualification for a first major tournament since way back in 1958 is at Wales’ mercy. Unbeaten with 14 points from a possible 18, a win here and another against third-placed Israel on Sunday will be enough to achieve that incredible feat, and prove that they are arguably the biggest beneficiaries of UEFA’s decision to increase the number of participants in the European Championships to 24.

The objective now is to get the job done as soon as possible, but Cyprus cannot be underestimated. They have a strong home record and ran Wales close in the reverse fixture in Cardiff, slipping to a narrow 2-1 defeat. With nine points they still have a chance of qualification, though the play-offs are their most likely route and so will need the win here to aid their hopes of beating Israel and Bosnia & Herzegovina to that coveted third spot.

Joe Allen is out for Wales through suspension, but is carrying a hamstring injury in any case. Hal Robson-Kanu will be assessed, while the hosts are unable to call upon Vincent Laban.

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