GARETH BALE admits he is lucky to be facing Croatia on Sunday after escaping a red card in Slovakia.
Wales' talisman feared he would receive a second yellow when he fouled Milan Skriniar during injury-time of Thursday's 1-1 draw in Trnava.
But Bale, who received treatment after clashing knees with Skriniar, conceded he was grateful Spanish referee Carlos del Cerro Grande did not dish out any further punishment to him.
That means Bale is free to lead Ryan Giggs' Euro 2020 hopefuls into battle against Group E leaders Croatia in Cardiff.
The Real Madrid superstar said: "I'm fit and fine. It was just a knock on the knee and a bit of ice has sorted that out.
“I was more worried about getting sent off, I was happy to get away with that one.
"Saying that, I didn’t think the first one deserved a yellow, so it evened itself out."
Despite Bale's let-off, the Dragons forward – alongwith influential midfielder Joe Allen – will walk a disciplinary tight-rope against the 2018 World Cup finalists.
Both Bale and Allen have collected two yellow cards so far during the qualification campaign and another caution will result in a one-match suspension.
And Bale is well aware he cannot let his team-mates down with as Wales enter a crunch time in trying to reach next summer's finals.
Wales lie fourth – three points behind the second-placed Slovaks – with three matches left to play against the Croats and then Azerbaijan and Hungary next month.
Bale added: "I suppose I can’t make too many silly tackles, I have to be mindful of that.
"I don’t want to miss any games for Wales, especially at a crunch time in the group.
“I have to be clever with what I'm doing but I have to expect someone will try to rile me up to get me suspended.
"I am experienced enough to try and get through the period without a booking. Hopefully that's the case."
Giggs said: “I want the same passion but one thing I always say in international football is you need to keep your discipline. Try to stay on feet and don’t give the referee an excuse to book you.
"But I don’t want them to lose that edge and aggressiveness that you need to win games, especially big games like this. We recognise they are both a booking away but you can't really think like that going into a game."
Bale has not beaten Croatia in three attempts and the 30-year-old is desperate to finally get one over on his close pal and club team-mate Luka Modric.
Bale said: "We haven't actually spoken yet. Maybe there'll be a message later on. We've played together for a long time at Tottenham and Real Madrid and we know each other quite well.
"Whenever we have played we've always lost by one goal so it's always been a tight game. It would be nice to finally get one over on him because they have beaten us a few times in the past."
In the reverse fixture back in June, Croatia claimed a 2-1 victory in Osijek and Bale later admitted he was in a bad place both physically and mentally with his Real future in major doubt.
Bale came close to a big-money move to China before that collapsed but the turbulence at the Bernabeu still exists.
And the 80-cap star even conceded last week he remains an emotional and angry footballer amid further speculation over where he will ply his trade when the transfer window reopens in January.
Yet when asked if Bale's smiley mood at a hotel on the outskirts of Cardiff yesterday, would spell danger for Croatia, he quipped: "I'm not an assassin!"
Bale added: "I'm in a better place now, physically more than anything, than I was in the summer. I hadn't played for five or six weeks leading into the game.
"I wasn't physically fit and I wasn't particularly too happy. But I feel in better form now, in better physical shape and hopefully that will make the difference come Sunday.
"You'd probably say they are the favourites. They are one of the best teams in the world, they had a great World Cup and they've shown year on year how good they are. We know it will be very tough.
"But we still have a plan on winning the game. Being at home gives us an advantage and we know the Welsh crowd are going to be behind us like always, cheering us on and being the 12th man.
"We've had some great results against big teams in our home stadium, so that will be the plan again on Sunday. We believe in ourselves, feel we have great players and a great team and on our day we can beat anybody.
“We know if we win all three games we should qualify. Our mindset is always to win the game. We want to get to another major tournament and give it another go."
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