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Nations League: Bulgaria vs Ireland

The Republic of Ireland will kick off the UEFA Nations League campaign when they face Bulgaria at the Vasil Levski national stadium in Group B4. Bulgaria was promoted to League B thanks to 2nd place in Group C3 for the 2018-19 season, while Ireland was at the bottom of Group B4 but avoided relegation due to changes in format. Bulgaria lost to Ireland in a friendly match at the end of last year with a score of 1-3, in this group there are also Finland vs Wales.

Goalkeeper Plamen Iliev played in all three of Bulgaria's victories in the Nations League 2018-19, but the Ludogorets man had to undergo surgery due to an Achilles injury and was absent from the squad. Georgi Georgiev started out against Belarus and will be looking to keep his place here, while Brazilian-born defender Cicinho has made his debut for the Bulgarian national team. UEFA Nations League 2018-19 is really a 2-stage story for Bulgaria, they got 3 wins in their first 3 matches but couldn't win in their remaining matches. However, the 9 points that Georgi Dermendzhiev's students won against Slovenia, Norway and Cyprus were enough to help them win second place and secure a place in League B for the 2020-21 tournament.

On the Irish side, Troy Parrott - currently on loan at Millwall from Tottenham Hotspur - suffered a muscle injury in a friendly win over Southend United and was forced to retreat. Sean Maguire has been called into the squad for Parrott, and West Bromwich Albion defender Dara O'Shea has also stepped up from the under-21 side. Kenny is sweating over the fitness of James McCarthy, who is struggling with calf problems, but the midfielder is said to have trained well ahead of Thursday's clash. Ireland is gearing up for a new era under the leadership of Stephen Kenny, who is gearing up for his first ever match to lead the Boys in Green team after replacing Mick McCarthy. Ireland will initially be relegated to League C for the Nations League 2020-21, but with 16 teams now accounting for 4 groups instead of 12, Ireland's position in League B is now safe. Under McCarthy, Boys in Green were unable to win any of their four matches in the 2018-19 version - drawing twice against Denmark and losing both against Wales. Since then, Ireland have made a good streak in their Euro qualifiers - losing just 1 of their 8 games - but Kenny's men were forced to settle for a final place in the final through play qualifiers- off.