WALES boss Chris Coleman admits a battle between two former teammates is likely to decide tonight’s showdown with Croatia.

Namely, the clash between Gareth Bale and his ex-Spurs colleague Luka Modric, now pulling the strings at the Bernabéu for Real Madrid and considered by many, Jose Mourinho included, to be one of the finest midfielders in Europe.

However, arguably it is Bale who is in the finer form, his sensational start to the World Cup qualifying campaign continuing unabated on Friday where his virtuoso display secured both goals in a 2-1 win over Scotland.

The prospect of Bale and Modric pitched into battle is enticing for any neutral and Coleman admits he expects it to define the game.

"Bale is a top player, one of the best in the Premier League and the world – I wouldn’t swap him for anyone else," Coleman told journalists at Cardiff Airport moments before the team flew to Osijek.

"He showed how good he is the other night, but it was a good team performance and it wasn’t all about Bale. However, he does give us something extra.

"The battle will be with Modric who is one of the best in the world in his position and we will have to make plans for him.

"I’ve watched Croatia’s game with Macedonia and he dictated the game, so we will have to stop him from playing."

Coleman is keen that the officials protect his prized asset, recently accused of diving.

"We will need a strong ref because players like Bale need protection from the officials," Coleman said.

"He’ll be targeted by Croatia, just like he was against Scotland and Belgium."