- Associated Press - Friday, March 18, 2016

CARDIFF, Wales (AP) - Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale has been left out of Wales’ squad for its upcoming friendlies against Northern Ireland and Ukraine so he can fully recover from recent injury problems.

Wales coach Chris Coleman says it was a “joint decision” between him and Madrid to omit Bale.

Bale has played in three games since coming back from a recurring leg muscle injury.

With one eye on this year’s European Championship, Coleman says “we have to recognize that the last couple of months have been tough for Gareth, fitness-wise. Looking at bigger picture, it’s all about the summer.”

Wales plays at Northern Ireland on March 24 and at Ukraine four days later.

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