Gareth Bale insists Wales can overcome the loss of Aaron Ramsey from their opening Euro 2020 qualifier and aim for top spot in Group E.
Ramsey was ruled out on the eve of the Cardiff clash against Slovakia on Sunday with a thigh injury that the Arsenal midfielder has been nursing all week.
But Bournemouth forward David Brooks has shrugged off an ankle injury, and Bale has declared himself fully fit after completing his first 90 minutes of 2019 for Real Madrid last weekend.
“Obviously it’s a big blow for us,” Bale said of Ramsey’s absence. “He’s a big player for us and we’ll obviously miss him.
“But it gives someone else a chance to step in and do a good job, and hopefully help the team to a win
“I am fully fit and ready to go. I am enjoying being here and I am excited for the new campaign.”
Bale has had a difficult time in Madrid this season with fans turning on him as Real crashed out of the Champions League and Copa del Rey, while trailing badly behind LaLiga leaders Barcelona.
But Bale has still scored 16 goals for club and country and dismissed the notion that he has had several injuries this season.
“I have only had one injury,” he said. “I have been fine and playing.
“I’ve scored a decent amount of goals and I am raring to go.
“I want to keep doing as much as I can to help the (Wales) team and so does every player.
“So I certainly don’t feel the pressure to produce. I just want to go out there, give my best for my country, score goals, create goals, defend, whatever I can to help the team.”
Slovakia star Marek Hamsik admits he is wary of playing Wales again after losing to them at Euro 2016.
Former Napoli midfielder Hamsik was part of the Slovakia side beaten 2-1 in Bordeaux as Wales started their march to the semi-finals of that tournament.
The two nations meet again in Cardiff on Sunday as Wales begin their 2020 European Championship qualifying campaign.
“Wales has quality and I remember that match,” said Hamsik, who ended his 11-year stay at Napoli last month to join Chinese club Dalian Yifang.
“It was quite unlucky for us. We could have won but then we lost it. Wales showed their power.”
Hamsik was prevented from giving Slovakia a third-minute lead in Bordeaux by Ben Davies’ brilliant goal-line clearance.
The 31-year-old slalomed his way through the Welsh defence and fired past Danny Ward in the Wales goal, but Tottenham defender Davies got back on the line to clear.
“I remember this moment well,” Hamsik said.
“It was unlucky because I did a very good individual action and unfortunately I didn’t score.
“Now Croatia is the favourite in the group, but also Wales has quality.
“We hope to qualify for the championship because it’s a dream.”