Wales v Northern Ireland Talking Points
Published 23/03/2016 | 10:46
Wales and Northern Ireland meet in Cardiff this Thursday in a clash between two home nations bound for Euro 2016.
Here Press Association Sport studies some of the issues surrounding both countries ahead of the fixture at the Cardiff City Stadium.
PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM?
Having scored 10 times in his past 14 fixtures for Burnley, in-form Sam Vokes is the obvious choice to lead the line for Wales. The selfless Hal Robson-Kanu was the spearhead of Chris Coleman's attack in qualifying and is in pole position to start their Euro 2016 opener against Slovakia in June, yet the fit-again Vokes can replicate such work-rate while providing more of a goal threat as well.
NO BALE OR RAMSEY
This game is missing the two headline Welsh acts as neither Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale or Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey are in Coleman's squad. In their absence, the ex-Fulham manager is expected to explore his options. Goalkeeper Danny Ward should be handed a maiden cap while midfielder Lloyd Isgrove and striker Tom Bradshaw will also hope for first-time recognition.
O'NEILL'S FORMATION QUANDARY
The hosts might not be the only side experimenting in Cardiff. Northern Ireland are seeking a replacement for injured full-back Chris Brunt over the next four friendlies and boss Michael O'Neill may tinker with their formation too in order to try and accommodate Barclays Premier League defenders Jonny Evans, Gareth McAuley and Craig Cathcart in a back three.
WASHINGTON'S EURO 2016 BID
Despite only visiting Northern Ireland once in his lifetime, Kent-born striker Conor Washington could pull on the green jersey for the first time in a city he used to live in during his time with Newport. Washington has already gone from part-time postman and non-league footballer to QPR in four years, now he will hope his journey takes him from international debutant to the European Championship in the space of just three months.
LAFFERTY'S LONG ABSENCE
Kyle Lafferty, whose seven goals in the qualifying campaign propelled Northern Ireland to France, has featured for a combined 45 minutes in three substitute appearances for Norwich this term . The 28-year-old could yet be sent out on loan prior to Thursday's deadline - a move which his countrymen would certainly welcome - and O'Neill will hope the talisman displays no rust given how important he is to Northern Ireland's fortunes this summer.