Football: Both Wales and Scotland head into tomorrow night's tie at Cardiff City Stadium knowing that the outcome is likely to prove pivotal to their hopes of reaching the 2014 finals in Brazil.
The two camps are badly in need of a victory with Wales pointless at the bottom of Group A after losing to Belgium and being thrashed 6-1 by Serbia last month.
Scotland have fared slightly better, drawing their opening two matches at home to the Serbs and Macedonia.
Pressure has been growing on the Welsh boss Chris Coleman, who has lost all five games since taking over in January following the death of Gary Speed.
The Football Association of Wales (FAW) have now told the former Fulham and Coventry manager he has their “100 per cent support” while also making it clear taking points from Scotland and Croatia over the next week is “a must.”
The crucial nature of the fixture was highlighted by Coleman’s assistant John Hartson, with the ex-West Ham and Celtic frontman describing the encounter as “a massive game for us.”
Hartson also revealed that concerns over Gareth Bale’s fitness have abated and that the 23-year-old Tottenham winger — who struggled with a heel problem in recent days — has been declared fit for duty.
Craig Bellamy is the most notable absentee for the Red Dragons with a knee problem though questions remain about his long-term future, with the 33-year-old having previously hinted at international retirement.
Wales, who will be captained by Ashley Williams, are also missing first-choice keeper Wayne Hennessey, Neil Taylor, Dave Edwards and Jack Collison.
James Collins is suspended while Craig Davies has come back into the squad as attacking cover.
Meanwhile Scotland have no major injury worries and Craig Levein will be able to call on Sunderland’s in-form £12 million striker Steven Fletcher, who has come in from the cold after withdrawing from a fixture against Northern Ireland last year via text message.
Fletcher, who has scored five times in six games this season for the Black Cats, may not start but is expected to see action at some stage in Cardiff, as well as against Belgium on Tuesday.
Kenny Miller should keep his place as the lone striker given that Blackburn’s Jordan Rhodes has withdrawn with an ankle complaint, while Robert Snodgrass is also out and he’s replaced by Kris Commons.
Levein also has Darren Fletcher in his plans after the Manchester United midfielder’s recovery from a chronic bowel problem that had kept him out of action for almost a year, although the suspended Steven Naismith misses out.
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