Bulgaria welcome the Republic of Ireland to Sofia for Stephen Kenny’s first game in charge of the Boys in Green on Thursday night. (kick-off 7.45pm Irish time).
The game is the opening fixture of the UEFA Nations League B, Group 4.
The hosts only managed six points from eight games in Group A of Euro 2020 qualifying.
However, that was enough to earn them fourth spot in the group and thus a Euro 2020 play-off with Hungary which is due to take place in October.
After Thursday night’s game, Bulgaria boss Georgi Dermendzhiev will take his side to face Wales in Cardiff on Sunday.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND
It’s been a long time coming but Stephen Kenny will finally take his place in the Republic of Ireland dugout for the first time in Sofia on Thursday night.
Kenny has already made a number of changes to the Ireland squad by promoting the likes of Jayson Molumby, Dara O’Shea and Adam Idah from the under 21s while also recalling Shane Long and Harry Arter who didn’t feature under the previous regime.
The game on Thursday night combined with the match against Finland on Sunday at the Aviva Stadium will go a long way to helping Kenny prepare his side for next month’s Euro 2020 play-off semi-final away to Slovakia.
The ex-Dundalk manager has only been working with his squad since Sunday, but feels that he’s managed to get some of his core principles across to his squad.
"You've got to have values and you've got to stand for something, and I think that's important in the way the team will evolve," said Kenny.
"I always want my team to have confidence in possession and also to want to show the full array of your talents.
"The last couple of days, we've been working on how we're going to play. It's been a really short time and it had to be modified as players played pre-season friendlies at the weekend.
Although Kenny knows that in a UEFA Nations League group with Bulgaria, Finland and Wales it will be anything but easy for Ireland, he knows that it could provide a back door route to the 2022 world cup for the Boys in Green.
"The winners of the group also have a chance, a good chance, of a World Cup play-off and we can't dismiss that.”
Kenny confirmed that all the players in the travelling squad are fit and ready to play on Thursday night.
Referee: Manuel Schüttengruber (Austria)
Ireland have lost just one of their last five competitive games away from the Aviva Stadium.
During his time with the Republic of Ireland under 21s Stephen Kenny took charge of seven European Championship qualifiers. He led his side to five wins, one draw and just one defeat.
Bulgaria’s only win in 2019 came in a 1-0 win against Czech Republic in Sofia last November.
Bulgaria 5/2; Draw 2/1; Republic of Ireland 11/10.
Bulgaria 0–1 Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland