Slovakia - Northern Ireland Preview: Final preparations before Euro 2016

Slovakia begin their campaign next Saturday against Wales, before Northern Ireland take on Poland a day later.

Slovakia - Northern Ireland Preview: Final preparations before Euro 2016
Slovakia will be looking to dampen Northern Ireland spirits as they did against Germany last week (photo: Getty Images)

Slovakia and Northern Ireland will be using Saturday evening's friendly to fine tune their preparations ahead of Euro 2016 this month, in their final match before the competition begins in France next week.

Both teams on a good run of form 

Slovakia are tipped as the underdogs in Group B alongside England, Wales and Russia, but are looking to complete a 100% record in their friendly matches after victories against Georgia and World Cup winners Germany in recent weeks. Head coach Jan Kozak likes to adjust his team to filter out the strengths of the opposition and may well use the game against Northern Ireland as a mirror of what kind of football he could be expecting to see from Wales next weekend.

Northern Ireland come into the game with confidence too after a 3-0 victory against Belarus last week, extending their unbeaten run to 11. That run of form is the best of any nation competing in Euro 2016, as Michael O'Neill's men prepare for their first encounter of the tournament against Poland on Sunday.

If Northern Ireland are to extend their record undefeated streak they will have to overcome a Slovakian side who have beaten them on two of the last three occasions, though the most recent encounter was all of seven years ago.

Will Grigg celebrates against Belarus. | Image source: Getty Images
Will Grigg celebrates against Belarus. | Image source: Getty Images

One last chance for the fringe players

Slovakia are understood to be giving defender Thomas Hubocan a start, along with winger Robert Mak, whilst captain Martin Skrtel returns from injury.

Northern Ireland defender Aaron Hughes is set to become only the twelfth home nation player to make a century of international appearances, whilst winger Stuart Dallas is unavailable after getting married. O'Neill could use the preparation as a chance to decide who to partner Kyle Lafferty up front in France, with Josh Magennis, Conor Washington and Jamie Ward all in contention. 

The match in Trnava is not one that would have captured the imaginations of many football fans outside of the two nations in previous years, but with both countries showing some excellent form over the past year, they could not only provide entertainment on Saturday evening, but also surprise progressions from their Euro 2016 groups.