A right royal rumble will take place in Dublin on Friday night as the two central defenders sparring for a place alongside Sean Morrison in Reading’s central defence come up against each other for Republic of Ireland versus Latvia. Kaspars Gorkss, who has seen 16 goals scored against him in his last four Reading starts, should captain the away side. The Sarkanbaltsarkanie (which I’m reliably informed translates to Red-white-red) have only won one game in 2013, and will then play an unofficial game against Championship side Yeovil at Huish Park on Tuesday. There is some context to that game, Yeovil boss Gary Johnson managed Latvia between 1999 and 2001.
In the other corner of Friday’s bout will be Alex Pearce, freshly dropped from the Royals’ starting line-up to be replaced by Gorkss, who will hope to add to his single cap after being included in the first squad of new Ireland manager Martin O’Neill. Pearce is likely to get a run-out in this friendly with injuries to fellow centre-backs Richard Dunne and Ciaran Clark.
Some Reading fans may recall former loanee Darren O’Dea, who Alex has replaced in the squad, and they may be interested to note that Pearce’s competition recently signed for Ukranian Premier league side Metalurh Donetsk, a fact which shouldn't hinder the current Reading defender's chances.
Stephen Kelly is also part of the squad, encouraged by his improved left-back showing against QPR, he will look to get game-time as regular right-back Séamus Coleman may be rested. The Republic will then travel to Poland for a friendly on Tuesday.
Chris Baird is once again included in the Northern Ireland squad, who travel to the outer-skirts of Europe for a friendly against Turkey. The home side are ranked 50 places above Baird’s side, but Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill (Not to be confused with the Northern Irish manager of the Republic of Ireland- Martin O’Neill) has pledged to take a look at his fringe players for this game, perhaps limiting the regular Baird’s minutes on the pitch.
The Welsh will also make use of this break with just the one game, at home to Finland in a tea-time kick-off on Saturday. As usual, Hal Robson-Kanu and Chris Gunter will be vying for places in this friendly. League One defender Sam Ricketts will provide the competition for Gunter, while the likes of Gareth Bale and on-form Burnley striker Sam Vokes will represent the alternate choices to Robson-Kanu for Wales manager Chris Coleman.
As per usual, Reading has an array of exciting young talent participating in youth internationals this month. Goalkeeper Jonathan Henly joined up with the Scottish under-21s but was not part of the squad for a 1-1 draw with Georgia on Thursday. Elsewhere, the Scottish under-18s are meeting up for a training squad, including Reading academy players Zak Jules, Tom McIntyre, Harry Caldwell and Jake Sheppard. Finally, Jake Cooper was on standby for the England under-19s, but was not needed in a 4-1 win over Hungary.