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Gareth Bale confident of being fully fit for World Cup | Wales boss Rob Page says talisman is back enjoying his football

Gareth Bale says he is on track to be fully fit for the World Cup in November, with head coach Rob Page claiming Wales will benefit from how he is being carefully handled by his club in Major League Soccer.

Bale has made just two starts in his 11 appearances for Los Angeles FC, and has yet to play 90 minutes since joining the Californian club in July.

But the 33-year-old insists his programme is tailored to reach peak fitness for the end of the MLS season and the subsequent World Cup in Qatar.

“We have a plan in LA with what we’re doing,” said Bale, who has linked up with the Wales squad for their closing Nations League games against Belgium and Poland.

“We’re not doing too much straight away. Every footballer wants to play as much as they can, but we’re being clever and building myself up for the last important part of the season.

“Hopefully that should put me in great shape for the World Cup. I think I’ll be a lot fitter. I haven’t played 90 minutes yet, which is what I’m building up to.

“We’re on a good path to where I want to be. Of course I want to play 90 minutes as much as I can, but I understand I need to build up to that because I haven’t done it an awful lot in the last few years.

“The most important thing for me is to take each week as it comes.

“Hopefully that will be good enough for me to help LAFC and, ultimately, be ready for the World Cup.”

Bale turned down offers to stay in Europe, including one from hometown club Cardiff, to move to the United States after his trophy-laden nine-year stay at Real Madrid had come to an end.

He says he is enjoying the Los Angeles lifestyle and that his family have settled well in the US.

Bale said: “I am very happy. My family are settled there, which is a big part, and the fans have been really supportive.

“It’s taken a little while to get everything sorted, but I am playing games and have been training for the last 10 weeks and getting stronger.

“We now have an important stretch of games in the MLS and, after that, my attention will turn to the World Cup.

“The plan is just to be 100 per cent to help LAFC first and foremost. Ultimately, that will lead into me being 100 per cent fit for the World Cup.”

Wales manager Robert Page believes the country’s talisman is visibly more confident having been warmly received at his new LA home following his departure from Real Madrid.

“It’s oozing out of him so you can see it’s been the right move for him and his family,” Page said. “Whether it’s the lifestyle, or the welcome he got from his own players. Who wouldn’t want to go into training every day? We talk about the environment he works in here with Wales, but he seems to get that when in LA.

“The family are happy, he’s got them with him and it seems like he’s back enjoying his football albeit he’s not playing 90 minutes, 90 minutes. He knew that when he went over there. He knew that he wasn’t going to be playing week in, week out.”

Bale’s fitness has often been the major subject of conversation during Wales’ World Cup qualifying campaign owing to him being marginalised at Madrid, and while he has been handled with care by LAFC, Page says the programme in place for the player to be at his best level come the World Cup is being followed.

“We’ve had him on camp before where he’s won us games without having played any minutes of club football, so any minutes we get out of Gareth now is a bonus,” the Wales boss continued. “I’m pleased and it’s the best outcome for me.

“It’s different at club level as you can create that environment. If you haven’t got a Gareth Bale fit, you can perhaps buy someone who is as good as him. It’s no disrespect to the fringe players here in the squad, but we haven’t got two or three Gareth Bales. We have to look after him slightly differently.

“When he goes back to his club, where he is at the moment, he’s being treated with the same respect that we did and they’ll get the best out of him. I was the same when I played. If I was looked after off the pitch and treated with respect, I’d be in the best frame of mind to go out at the weekend to perform.

“We’ve always had a common sense approach with Gareth with regards to his planning and training. It’ll be no different on this camp. I’m not going to jeopardise it and run the risk of him getting injured, which will have an impact on November and the World Cup

“I want him to go back to his club fully fit, and continuing to get fitter ahead of the World Cup.”

Page says he will assess Bale’s condition before deciding whether to start him against Belgium, the world’s number two-ranked team, in Brussels on Thursday.

“You wouldn’t have thought he’d just got off a flight from the States,” said Page, who is without injured quartet Aaron Ramsey, Ben Davies, Harry Wilson and Joe Allen this week.

“His preparation started as soon as the final whistle went in his game. He goes to the nth degree.

“I’m not surprised by his professionalism, but I was surprised with how fresh he looked.”

Wales are bottom of Nations League A4 with their only point from four games coming in a 1-1 draw at home to Belgium in June.

Even if Wales lose in Belgium, and depending on results elsewhere, the Dragons could avoid relegation from the top tier of the competition by beating Poland in their final fixture in Cardiff on Sunday.

Wales’ Nations League permutations

Group A4

A4 has proven to be the least competitive of the League A groups, with the Netherlands and Belgium in a two-way fight for top spot and Poland and Wales scrapping to avoid relegation.

The former sides currently have the upper hand in both cases, with the Netherlands’ three-point lead at the top of the group meaning four points from their final two matches – away to Poland and at home to Belgium – will be enough to qualify for the finals.

Wales know that winning their final two games – away to Belgium and at home to Poland – will be enough to remain in League A.

That will be easier said than done, however, and Rob Page’s side will be hoping that Poland, who are currently three points clear of Wales, remain in touching distance when they meet in Cardiff on Monday on the final matchday.

Even if Wales lose in Belgium, and depending on results elsewhere, the Dragons could avoid relegation from the top tier of the competition by beating Poland in their final fixture in Cardiff on Sunday.

Analysis: Bale brings spring in step of Wales players

Sky Sports News reporter Geraint Hughes:

“There’s a bit of a spring in the step of these Wales players after Gareth Bale arrived yesterday from Los Angeles. He hadn’t suffered any of the jet lag from 10-and-a-half hours and he immediately got himself into the camp to see the young players Luke Harris of Fulham and Jordan James of Birmingham City – teenagers at 17 and 18 years old.

“He went to see them in the canteen and welcomed them into the squad. There’s a real buzz about the camp which was missing a little on Tuesday but is definitely there today.

“How often we’ve talked about Bale’s lack of match fitness when he joins up with Wales where he is severely undercooked. It was never even a discussion whether he’d played 90 minutes at Real Madrid. It was a question of whether he’d even had nine seconds on the pitch.

“But in terms of his fitness, he says this is probably the best he’s felt in a number of years. He’s a very fit individual anyone, he looks after himself, but with LAFC he’s really building his body back up.

“He’s not played 90 minutes but he’s been coming on around the 60-minute mark to build his fitness up. The ultimate aim now is to be absolutely spot on for when the World Cup comes around so there’s no stress on the body.”

Wales’ World Cup warm-up fixtures

Wales are preparing for this month’s Nations League fixtures. Page’s team face Belgium away on Thursday September 22 at 7.45pm, before hosting Poland on Sunday September 25 at 7.45pm.

Wales’ World Cup group B fixtures

November 21: USA (Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan) – kick-off 7pm

November 25: Iran (Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan) – kick-off 10am

November 29: England (Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan) – kick-off 7pm

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