Wales boss Coleman expresses concern over Haifa pitch

Wales boss Coleman expresses concern over Haifa pitch

Wales boss Chris Coleman has concerns over the pitch at the Sammy Ofer Stadium

Wales manager Chris Coleman has expressed concerns about the state of the Haifa pitch ahead of his side’s crunch Euro 2016 qualifier in Israel next month.

But Coleman says Wales will be ready after their experience on Andorra’s controversial artificial pitch in September and will not focus on the bare patches which exist at the Sammy Ofer Stadium.

Coleman went to Haifa last month on a reconnaissance mission and admits he was surprised by what he saw at a stadium which was only completed seven months ago and hosted its first Israel match in November when Bosnia-Herzegovina were beaten 3-0 in Euro 2016 qualification.

“They’ve struggled with the grass pitch and it’s got some areas of concern,” Coleman told Press Association Sport.

“But it’s nowhere near Andorra, which was the worse pitch I’ve ever experienced in professional football, and even if it was it’s not something we’d make a big thing of.

“We’ve said from the get-go whatever comes our way we’ve got to get on with it.

“But, in fairness, the best pitch we’ve played on in this group so far is the Cardiff City Stadium, which was better than both the one out in Belgium and obviously Andorra.”

The Sammy Ofer Stadium can house 31,000 and it is expected to be packed to capacity when the surprise front-runners of Group B meet in a top-of-the-table clash on March 28.

Israel lead the section with a 100 per cent record from three games while unbeaten Wales lie second with eight points from four games, leaving group favourites Belgium and Bosnia with ground to make up on the two automatic qualifying places.

“The stadium is fantastic and the facilities are as good as I’ve seen,” Coleman said.

“It is similar to Cardiff City Stadium with the stands right close to the pitch, so the atmosphere is enclosed and I think it will be a feisty one.

“We know the challenge is there but the closer it gets the more the feeling is one of ‘let’s get this job done’.”

Coleman has already had mixed fitness news in the build-up to the Israel trip.

On the plus side Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has played down fears midfielder Aaron Ramsey could miss out with hamstring damage, Burnley striker Sam Vokes should be available after a long-term absence and Jonathan Williams has returned to training at Crystal Palace following a thigh problem which has kept him out since early November.

But Coleman said key defender James Chester is “touch and go” after having an operation on a dislocated shoulder and Wigan midfielder Emyr Huws will definitely be absent following ankle surgery.

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