Wales boss Chris Coleman is urging officials in their upcoming Euro 2016 qualifier against Cyprus to ensure Gareth Bale is protected from any potential bullying tactics by the hosts.
The Welsh go to Nicosia as Group B leaders knowing victory would send them another giant step closer to appearing at their first major tournament finals since 1958.
Wales emerged as 2-1 winners over Cyprus when they clashed in Cardiff in October, with the home side reduced to 10 men when Andy King was dismissed, but Coleman felt that Real Madrid star Bale came in for special treatment that was bordering on breaching the rules of the game.
“One or two of their challenges the boundaries weren’t stepped over, they were hopped over,” he said.
“I was surprised we came off the pitch with one man less than Cyprus and it wasn’t 10 vs. 10 by the end of the game.”
Coleman, whose side are 1.75 to win in Cyprus, says Bale is capable of looking after himself but he wants to ensure the officials give him a fair crack of the whip nonetheless.
“Gareth’s a strong boy and he knows how to ride a tackle. He can’t see everyone coming, but if he gets a clump I expect the referee – whether it’s in Wales or in Cyprus – to deal with it accordingly,” he added.
“We’re not asking for special treatment, we just want normal treatment.”
Coleman has steered his team to the top of Group B with 14 points from six games – three points clear of second-placed Belgium following a priceless victory over the Red Devils in June.
Victories in Cyprus and at home to Israel on Sunday will end their long wait for qualification for a major tournament by booking Wales’ place at next summer’s European Championship in France.
Cyprus are 5.00 to inflict a first qualifying defeat on Wales, with the draw at 3.50.