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Northern Ireland v New Zealand - talking points

Northern Ireland entertain New Zealand in Belfast on Friday night as they gear up for their trip to Azerbaijan next week.

Michael O'Neill's men visit Baku for their next World Cup qualifier and have taken a friendly against the All Whites at Windsor Park as part of their preparations.

Here Press Association Sport looks at the talking points ahead of the contest.

WHAT WILL O'NEILL'S TEAM SELECTION BE?

The Northern Irish boss has already confirmed neither Gareth McAuley nor fellow defender Craig Cathcart will feature on Friday as a precaution over their injury concerns, and Premier League colleagues Chris Brunt and Steven Davis will not play 90 minutes. Burton's Tom Flanagan is expected to win his first cap, while Josh Magennis and Matthew Lund, who have not played in almost five weeks, should also play. Only 20 players in O'Neill's squad of 25 will likely be available and Accrington's Shay McCartan will be hoping to make his international debut too.

CAN LIAM BOYCE OR KYLE LAFFERTY STAKE THEIR PLACE FOR BAKU?

Conor Washington and Jamie Ward scored the goals in the March win over Norway, though neither will be available for their country's next two games due to a wedding and an injury respectively. That leaves open attacking positions and could pave the way for Boyce, the Scottish Premiership's top scorer last term, to become the main man 12 months after being left out of the squad for the Euros. However, Lafferty tends to thrive when pulling on the green shirt and will hope to prove his fitness after barely being used by Norwich over the past season.

DOES O'NEILL HAVE THE SQUAD DEPTH?

With four major figures missing, along with injured midfielders Corry Evans and Paddy McNair, this will be an opportunity for O'Neill to assess the strength of his squad. The gulf between the first-choice XI and the fringe players was evident when Northern Ireland last hosted a friendly and lost 3-0 to Croatia in November. This will be just the second time O'Neill has booked a friendly since the Euros so those given a chance will have to seize it if they hope to be involved in the qualifiers.

HOW GOOD ARE NEW ZEALAND?

The All Whites have not conceded in eight competitive games and are only two steps away from reaching the World Cup in Russia next summer. Recent friendlies with the United States, who they drew 1-1 with, and Mexico, who they lost 2-1 to, are perhaps a better measure of New Zealand's status in world football than their FIFA ranking of 95th. Their captain and Leeds striker Chris Wood will present the most obvious threat having scored more than anyone else in the Championship in 2016-17, and they will see this as a good test ahead of their participation in the Confederations Cup later this month.

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