AARON RAMSEY has been forced to pull out of the Wales squad for the start of their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign through injury.
Arsenal star Ramsey missed the friendly against Trinidad and Tobago while he nursed a thigh problem in midweek but had hoped to be fit to face Slovakia tomorrow.
But the influential midfielder has not recovered as quickly as expected and has now been sent back to Arsenal for treatment.
It is a major blow for Wales boss Ryan Giggs as he looks to get his side’s European Championship qualifiers off to a strong start.
Giggs said: “We hoped Aaron would make it but he has gone back to Arsenal. It’s a blow.
“We have plan B and we’ve worked on it during the week. He was in good form but it gives a chance for someone else.”
Wales have been handed a tough draw in Group E, with World Cup runners-up Croatia firm favourites to seal top spot.
It means the matches against Slovakia are likely to be crucial – so the absence of one of their star players is a huge loss for Wales.
There will also be a concern at Arsenal about how serious the injury is, having initially only being described as “a knock”.
The 28-year-old has played a key role in the upturn in form of Unai Emery’s side in recent weeks which has seen them climb back into the top four in the Premier League.
The Gunners now have their sights set on catching Tottenham in third spot, although Manchester United and Chelsea are still fighting hard below them.
Ramsey’s leadership and drive in midfield will be crucial to helping the Gunners, and Emery will want him fit to be available for the league clash with Newcastle on April 1.
The fact that the game has been shifted to a Monday night is a bonus, giving him extra time to fully recover from the injury.