Joe Allen has urged Wales’ fringe players to stake their claim for a spot at Euro 2016 when they take on Northern Ireland at Cardiff City Stadium on Thursday.
Wales are without star man Gareth Bale for the friendly matches against Northern Ireland and Ukraine following talks with Real Madrid, with the forward having suffered with a calf injury lately.
Manager Chris Coleman, who led Wales to a major tournament for the first time since 1958 and their first European Championship, is also without several other first-team regulars.
Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey and West Ham defender James Collins are the most notable absentees, but Hal Robson-Kanu, Andy King, Paul Dummett and Dave Edwards are also unavailable.
Liverpool midfielder Allen is expecting a tough challenge over the coming week, but wants those on the periphery of the first team to show why they are worthy of a spot in France.
“We can’t wait to get to France and show the world what we can do,” he said.
“We face two strong teams. Two very different games, but variety is key to our preparation. Friendlies are a chance for players to step in, show what they can and stake a claim for a place in the Euros.”
Like Wales, Northern Ireland will be playing at the Euros for the first time after they topped Group F of qualifying.
Manager Michael O’Neill was rewarded with a new four-year deal and he takes charge of the side for the first time since penning fresh terms.
O’Neill also has injury problems, with West Brom’s versatile left-sided captain Chris Brunt cruelly ruled out of the tournament with a serious knee injury.
Daniel Lafferty, on loan at Oldham Athletic from Burnley, last played for Northern Ireland last May but he is among those aiming to press his case in Brunt’s absence.
“I’m absolutely delighted to be back in the squad,” he told the Londonderry Sentinel.
“I haven’t been in the squad for a while and I missed most of the qualifying campaign, but I’m going in with the mentality that I’m a new player getting into the squad and hopefully I can do well.”
Northern Ireland, who were beaten 2-0 by Wales the last time the sides met in May 2011, may hand international debuts to Peterborough United defender Michael Smith and QPR striker Conor Washington.
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