Date: 24th March 2016 at 10:43am
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Wales will be without several of their first-team players when they entertain Northern Ireland in a derby at the Cardiff City Stadium on Thursday night.

The hosts will be missing eight players because of injury, including Real Madrid star Gareth Bale, with his club and the Welsh FA agreeing to leave the 26-year-old out of the squad on this occasion. The forward scored seven of his nation’s 11 goals during their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.

Manager Chris Coleman is still expecting a “feisty” encounter though, as his side gear up for their first major international tournament in 58 years.

Wales have also only lost one of their last nine home internationals – against the Netherlands back in November.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland certainly have less injury problems than their opponents, but are also missing a couple of key players.

Chris Baird, on loan to Fulham from Derby, will be absent, while West Brom’s Chris Brunt is set to miss Euro 2016 altogether after suffering a knee injury.

Manager Michael O’Neill believes that “common sense will prevail” during the fixture with both sets of players not taking unnecessary risks are they look ahead to the trip to France in the summer – it is the country’s first taste of major tournament football for 30 years.

The visitors will also be looking to end a dreadful away run in international friendlies – they have scored just one goal in their last 17 matches on their travels.

Team News:

The hosts are missing eight players – Bale, Aaron Ramsey, James Collins, Andy King, David Edwards and Hal Robson-Kanu are all out, while they will also be without a recognised left-back as Ben Davies and Neil Taylor are both set to be absent because of injury.

The match is likely to provide an opportunity for some of Wales’ fringe players to get a place in the starting line-up, with Liverpool goalkeeper Danny Ward expected to make his debut between the sticks, while Leicester City’s Tom Lawrence, who is currently on loan at Cardiff City, may also get a chance to shine.

Meanwhile, O’Neill is missing Baird and Brunt, but could hand debuts to two players – Queens Park Rangers striker Conor Washington, and Peterborough United’s Michael Smith.

Previous Meeting: Wales 2-0 Northen Ireland (Nations Cup – May 27, 2011)
Form: Wales – WWDLWL; Northern Ireland -DWDWDW
Key Men: Wales – Ashley Williams; Northern Ireland – Steven Davis
Shoot Says: Wales 1-0 Northern Ireland

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