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Is a title challenge possible for Man Utd?

Manchester United
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By ESPN Staff

Bellamy in Wales squad despite court appearance

Craig Bellamy could step from court straight into Wales' Euro 2008 campaign next month.

The Liverpool star has been named in boss John Toshack's squad for the group D qualifiers in Cardiff on October 7 and 11 against Slovakia and Cyprus, despite facing a potential three-day court appearance between the matches.

Bellamy is due to face trial in Cardiff on an assault charge - which he denies - and that could severely disrupt Toshack's planning for the Cyprus match.

But Toshack hopes to have Bellamy at the squad's headquarters just outside the Welsh capital throughout the trial, and is even considering arranging training sessions to accommodate the 27 year-old's availability.

And there is certainly the prospect of Bellamy walking from court to the nearby Millennium Stadium to play for his country.

Toshack says: 'We have the situation with Bellamy. It will be no problem in the week leading up to Slovakia on the Saturday, although I know he must be concerned about what is going to happen.

'But in the days before we play Cyprus on the Wednesday, we know he will be in court. That must be playing on his mind.

'I would hope and expect him to play in both matches, knowing him as I do. But it is something we will have to think about.

'I am not sure how we will handle the training situation with Craig. He will be in court while we are working, I will look into how we manage that.

'We may have to tailor some training sessions for when he is actually with us.

'We must overcome the problem. I understand he will be in court for two days, maybe three.

'We must be geared up to the times he is with us and maybe how we look at our preparation.'

Toshack desperately needs Bellamy to be involved, considering he is unlikely to have captain Ryan Giggs - who is struggling with a hamstring problem despite being named in Toshack's squad today.

To lose both his best players for these critical October dates would be a savage blow.

Toshack added: 'Maybe we will be able to get a 90-minute adjournment for training, you never know!

'We will try to get over this the best way we can. I have spoken to him and he wants to play in both matches, but I would not expect anything else from him.

'Obviously he has known about this for some time, and I don't think it has effected the way he has been playing.

'We must not let this deflect us from the job in hand which is two important qualifying matches.

'You can plan for most things, but now we find we are missing four key players as well as having to contend with a court case.

'I do not think we will have any problems with him not being mentally prepared, that's not like Craig, he always wants to play.

'He is in the squad and has two big Liverpool matches before we get together - against Galatasaray and Bolton - and I firmly believe he will be playing for us in the two games.

'As for his form, I don't think there's much wrong even if he is struggling for a goal at the moment. But that applies to us as well as Liverpool.

'He has missed some important chances for us as well over recent games, he knows that. It is an area we must improve on.

'But when I was playing I was always told to keep going in more determined than the last time. If you miss, be more determined next time and keep going.

'We need our midfielders to start scoring, we must not just rely on one or two players up front.'

Toshack has massive problems for the double header, with Mark Delaney (knee) and Sam Ricketts (fractured cheekbone) definitely out and Carl Fletcher (ankle) extremely doubtful.

Giggs is recovering from a hamstring injury and his four-week treatment schedule finishes the day Wales play Cyprus at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on October 11.

Boss Toshack has faint hopes Giggs could be ready to face Cyprus even if he misses the Slovakia game, but even at this stage the FA of Wales are fearing the worst.

Toshack said: 'I have had a couple of chats with Ryan and he wants to be involved, but this has been a severe tear of his hamstring and his recovery period ends on the day of the second of our two group D matches.

'We have to be realistic and start preparing to be without him. You cannot replace Ryan Giggs, but we will have to find some alternatives.'

It is likely that veteran goalkeeper Paul Jones will take over as skipper, earning his 50th cap against Slovakia.

Toshack has also finally recalled Jason Koumas after his summer of dispute with West Brom, and has warned him that he is on his last chance after pulling out of several Wales squads.

The manager explained: 'It will only happen once more.'

Toshack will add two more players to the list in the next week, one of whom will be West Brom's John Hartson as long as he can prove his fitness after an ankle problem.

There is the prospect that Wrexham's Chris Llewellyn or Barnsley forward Danny Nardiello could be late call-ups.