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Monday, 23 September, 2002, 13:12 GMT 14:12 UK
Delaney boosts Wales
Mark Delaney in action against Portugal's Luis Figo
Delaney will bolster Wales' defence against Italy
Mark Delaney has handed Wales manager Mark Hughes a boost by insisting he will be fit for next month's vital European Championship qualifier with Italy at the Millennium Stadium.

The Aston Villa defender has been sidelined for the last three matches - including Sunday's 3-2 win over Everton - with a mystery leg problem.

But Delaney is now back in training and confident he will be fit to face the Italians as Wales look to step up their bid to reach the Euro 2004 finals after their excellent 2-0 success in Finland.


I'd rather miss two or three games than miss a lot of the season
Mark Delaney

He is targeting a return for Villa in next weekend's Barclaycard Premiership encounter with Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.

"Mark Hughes rang me up the other day and checked how I was and I said I would be ready for Italy," Delaney said.

"I've had all the tests. I've had a bone scan and an MRI scan to check if there's any damage and the good news is that there isn't any.

"We're still not sure exactly what the problem is. We're trying to eliminate a few things and try to see exactly where the pain is coming from.

"In the meantime, I'm just doing some strength work, trying to build up the calf muscles and hopefully it won't flare up again in a few weeks."

Delaney admitted: "It's been frustrating and I was close to being ready to return against Birmingham City last week. It didn't feel too bad.

"But in the end it wasn't worth the gamble of playing and then missing a month. I'd rather miss two or three games and then get straight back into things rather than miss a lot of the season.

"I've been taking some time off to allow it to settle down and now I'm definitely looking at the Sunderland game."


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