Wales suffered a massive blow to their hopes of qualifying for their first World Cup since 1958 after talisman Gareth Bale was ruled out of their final two games against Georgia and the Republic of Ireland.
Bale hobbled off during Real Madrid’s win over Borussia Dortmund last week, in which he scored a stunning volley, with a calf strain and consequently missed this weekend’s win over Espanyol.
Manager Chris Coleman had been hoping Bale would be fit to take part in both games, where four points would see them guarantee the side a top-two finish and a probable place in the play-offs.
However, the injury is taking longer to heal than anticipated and Bale will miss Friday’s visit to Georgia as a result, as well as the likely winner-takes-all decider with the Republic of Ireland in Cardiff on Monday.
Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane insisted Bale would be fit enough for Wales and said he could have even made the bench against Espanyol if Los Blancos needed him.
“He will travel with his international team,” the Real boss said on the weekend. “He could have played with us [against Espanyol] but I preferred to leave him out as he had a small complaint.
“He's fine. After so many games at the start of the season and four months of injury, he was suffering after the game in Dortmund.
“He strained his hamstring but in the end it's nothing. It's not an injury. I've spoken to him and the doctors.”
Bale’s absence could now see teenager Ben Woodburn make his first start for Wales after his stunning impact in helping the side win their previous two qualifiers against Austria and Moldova, while Barnsley striker Tom Bradshaw is added to Coleman's squad.