Ireland will kick off 2023 tomorrow night, facing Latvia in a friendly at the Aviva Stadium. While it is not exactly the most eye-catching fixture, it will be an important game as the team gears up for their Euro 2024 qualifier against France next week.
Stephen Kenny is likely to select a largely first choice XI for the Latvia game, although he could give opportunities to handful of fringe players.
Here is the team we would go with.
Ireland team we want to see against Latvia
Stephen Kenny has toyed around with a few different systems that featured three centre backs, although this one has brought the most success. The home game against Scotland last summer was the prime example, with Troy Parrott and Michael Obafemi thriving in a partnership up front on that occasion.
You'd imagine he will persist with it for this international window.
GK: Gavin Bazunu
Gavin Bazunu has played a lot of football this season, although Ireland caps have been relatively scarce for him over the last year or so. The 21-year old played in only three of their ten games in 2021 and you'd imagine Kenny will persist with his first choice goalkeeper ahead of the France game next week.
CB: Nathan Collins
Having had a good start to the season, Nathan Collins has found himself out of the Wolves team for large periods in recent weeks. Julen Lopetegui has favoured the partnership of Max Kilman and Craig Dawson since the latter's arrival in January, with the Irishman having failed to start a Premier League game since January.
As a result, you'd imagine the minutes in this game would do him good. Collins is already the key player at the back in this side and at least 60 minutes or so against Latvia should help him regain some match sharpness ahead of the visit from the French.
CB: Dara O'Shea
Dara O'Shea has been in stellar form for West Brom this season, captaining the side as they recovered from their poor start to the campaign to become play-off contenders. He is likely to start tomorrow night.
It will be interesting to see if he makes the team for France. He has formed a decent partnership with Collins and John Egan at the back, although Seamus Coleman will also be considered as an option for the back three.
CB: Andrew Omobamidele
With the news that Matt Doherty is set to captain the team tomorrow night, we can assume that neither Seamus Coleman or John Egan will start the game. Either way, there is a case to be made for Andrew Omobamidele to play in this one.
The Norwich City man has had plenty of injury issues over the last 18 months or so, so much so that he failed to make a single appearance for Ireland in 2022. This fixture is an ideal opportunity for him to get a sixth international cap under his belt, even if he has fallen behind Dara O'Shea in the pecking order.
RWB: Matt Doherty
Matt Doherty's move to Atletico Madrid has not gone to plan. The Dubliner has played a grand total of 12 minutes since signing for the Spanish club, a tally that looks unlikely to grow significantly before the end of the campaign.
As a result, Stephen Kenny will want the player to get some major minutes under his belt ahead of the France game. It has been confirmed that he will captain Ireland for the first time tomorrow night.
LWB: Callum O'Dowda
The left wingback spot is an interesting one for Ireland. Ryan Manning has been the most in-form player in that position this season, but he was not included in the squad. Judging by the comments Stephen Kenny made last week, Callum O'Dowda looks like the frontrunner to start here during this international window.
O'Dowda has played well in a struggling Cardiff City side this season. He is another one who has struggled for international playing time due to injuries, having not featured for Ireland in two years prior to the games back in November. You'd imagine he will start against Latvia.
CM: Josh Cullen
Josh Cullen has racked up the minutes since his move to Burnley last summer, but that is unlikely to stop him starting against Latvia.
Perhaps the most consistent performer under the current manager, he is the only player of his type in the squad and is massively important to everything Ireland try to achieve on the pitch.
CM: Jason Knight
Jason Knight has always performed well for Ireland when given the opportunity, although he has never really nailed down a place in the starting XI. He will be looking to change that during the upcoming qualifying campaign, with the fixture against Latvia a perfect opportunity to impress the manager.
He offers something a bit different in comparison to the other midfielders in the squad, coupling raw running power with an ability to contribute in the final third.
CM: Will Smallbone
Ireland have been crying out for a creative midfielder ever since Wes Hoolahan retired. Multiple players have failed to impress in that role in recent years, but Will Smallbone should be given the opportunity to show what he can contribute against Latvia.
He has been very impressive during his loan spell at Stoke City this season, while he has also shown what he can do in attacking sense during his time with the Ireland U21s.
We would probably bring Jayson Molumby into this spot for the France game, although it would be nice to see Smallbone be given an international debut in this fixture.
ST: Evan Ferguson
Evan Ferguson has to be Ireland's first choice striker this month. Removing his age from the equation, there is no doubt that he has been the most in-form Irish player over the last three months or so.
He will start against France, so it would be no harm to allow him to get some more international minutes under his belt before that game. After all, he has played a total of 14 minutes for Ireland prior to this window.
It would be brilliant to see him get a goal in this fixture to really kick off his career in green.
ST: Troy Parrott
It would make sense for Stephen Kenny to play his first choice forward partnership against Latvia. The presence of Ferguson means it will be an untested duo, so it will be important to get some reps in ahead of the French game a few days later.
Michael Obafemi and Chiedozie Ogbene will be considered, although Troy Parrott might be the best fit alongside the Brighton man. Parrott has had his injury issues in recent months, and while he is still playing his way back to full fitness, his ability to drop deep and link the play would work well alongside Ferguson.
Obafemi is likely next in line, while Ogbene and the recently eligible Mikey Johnston could be in with a shout to start if Kenny opts to play with wingers instead of two central strikers.
The Team In Full
This is quite a youthful side, with only four players over the age of 23-years old. It is a largely first choice XI, although a couple of players are given opportunities to impress ahead of the Euro qualifying campaign.
It will be interesting to see what lineup Stephen Kenny goes with.