Gareth Bale: Wales boss Chris Coleman backs striker's fitness bid
Wales manager Chris Coleman believes Gareth Bale can be fit in time for his side's next World Cup qualifying match, against the Republic of Ireland.
Real Madrid forward Bale, 27, had ankle surgery on 29 November and is expected to be out for four months.
Wales are third in their qualifying group, four points adrift of the Republic, who they visit on 24 March.
"If anybody is going to be back before the time that has been given to us it will be Bale," said Coleman.
"With that type of injury you are looking at three months-ish.
"But three months is a long time. You can get a setback, or be fast-tracked if anything is going really well.
"We are hoping it's the latter but we have a bit of time between now and March and he has a bit of time to make sure he gets himself right."
Coleman was speaking at the Wales Sport Awards in Cardiff, where he was given a Special Recognition Award after guiding Wales to the semi-finals of Euro 2016.
Bale was runner-up to Olympic taekwondo gold medallist Jade Jones for BBC Wales Sport Personality of the Year.
The player posted a video message on the social media site Dugout.
Standing with the assistance of crutches, Bale said: "The recovery's going well, my ankle's feeling better every day."
The Cardiff-born forward injured an ankle tendon during a Champions League match against Sporting Lisbon on 22 November.
Bale has scored 26 goals for his country and is key to the team's hopes of qualifying for the World Cup finals for the first time since 1958.
Coleman hopes Bale's professionalism and strength mean he has every chance of being back in time to play in Dublin.
"He is OK. People were talking about a three-month period and if anybody is going to get back before then it will be him," he said.
"He is an absolute machine, such an athlete.
"Physically he is probably one of the fittest players I have ever seen. He is a consummate professional and lives his life right and if anyone has a chance of getting back before it will be him."