Joe Allen is out of next week’s crucial World Cup qualifier with the Czech Republic.
The midfielder lasted just seven minutes of his long-awaited return to international football as Wales slumped to a spirited 3-1 defeat at the hands of world number one side Belgium in Leuven on Wednesday.
It was a cruel end to what was Allen’s first appearance in Wales shirt for nearly two years, with the Stoke City man previously spending the best part of a year recovering from a devastating Achilles injury.
Interim Wales boss Rob Page is likely to ring the changes for Saturday night’s friendly with Mexico, with Chris Gunter in line to become the first Welshman to win 100 caps.
Nevertheless, there is likely to be one eye on Tuesday night’s clash with the Czechs, who opened their qualifying account with a thumping 6-2 win over Estonia, and are likely to be Wales’ main rivals for second spot in Group E behind expected winners Belgium.
And Page admits that losing Allen will be considered a big blow to his side, adding he’s not sure on the full extent of the former Swansea City star’s latest setback.
“We’ve lost Joe, which is a shame,” Page said. “I said the before the game about the importance of him on and off the pitch and it is a big loss for us.
“But like I said it gives someone else an opportunity to step up.”
After an encouraging performance against the Belgians, Page may well keep the faith with Joe Morrell next week, having chosen not to add to his midfield options in Allen’s absence.
“I thought Joe Morrell was outstanding. He came in and gave a great account of himself and it gives others an opportunity now to come in and do well,” Page added.
“It’s disappointing not to have him [Allen] and he has to go back to the club now and they’ll do more assessments and then they’ll know exactly where they’re at with him with regards to timescale.
“It’s a soft tissue injury. I’m not 100 per cent on the extent of the injury. I’ve left that down to the medical team and it’s down to them now to report back to the club.
“He’s had a difficult year and the number of games he’s played has maybe caught up with him. It was inevitable he was going to get something.”
The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has already handed Allen a reprieve when it comes to Euro 2020.
Having initially been ruled out of the tournament, the 31-year-old will have been looking forward to taking part in this summer’s rearranged tournament.
And, while unable to comment on the timeframes involved, Page insists there are currently no fears over Allen’s fitness for this summer’s showpiece.
“I can’t see that being the case,” he explained.
“For me it’s not a severe injury, no.”
When pressed on why he chose not to call up any midfield cover, Page admits that the protocols around Covid-19, which have already deprived Wales of centre-back James Lawrence, have made the situation a little more complicated than normal.
“It’s a little bit more difficult as you can imagine with Covid,” he said.
“We have to submit a squad to the league clubs and all the clubs we have the players from. We picked a big squad and we didn’t foresee the injuries that we’ve had, losing three defenders, losing Joe Allen.
“We didn’t see that when we picked the squad of 31. We had positions covered in numbers. So, it’s a shame, but like I said it does give someone else an opportunity now to step up to the plate.”
Losing Lawrence has been a particularly sore point for Page, especially given that England’s Jude Bellingham, also based in Germany, appears to have been subject to different rules, meaning he is free to stay with the Three Lions.
When asked the difference, Page fired back: “I was asking the question too.
“It’s regionalised in Germany, so the government there said there are different rules and protocols for each region that they need to stick to, and unfortunately, James falls under one that means we have to send him back for quarantine rules. So, it’s very, very frustrating when you see other countries have their players from Germany and we can’t.”
Page has opted to call up highly-rated Swansea City youngster Brandon Cooper to his squad in response to Lawrence’s absence, ahead of more established options such as Allen’s Stoke team-mate James Chester.
However, Page insists it would be wrong to read too deeply into Chester’s international future in light of Cooper’s call-up.
“Everybody’s got an opinion on it, of course,” Page added.
“But for us, it’s Covid protocols and it’s an easy one for us. Let’s not take anything away from Coops, though. He’s had a great camp and we know he’s part of the future of Welsh football.
“The door’s not closed on anyone. If you’re a Welsh footballer playing well at whatever level, we’re not going to close the door on anybody. The door’s always open, but we’ll pick a squad that we think is able to compete against not only Europe’s best but the world’s best.”