Preston North End sit atop of the Championship as it pauses for two weeks to make way for international football. Whilst The Lilywhites have made an exceptional start to the season, a few of their players now turn their attention towards representing their country.

Ali McCann will be looking to add to his 18 caps, as Northern Ireland travel to Slovenia and Kazakhstan for European Qualifiers. They need points on the board after only claiming one draw from the first four fixtures.

McCann’s teammates face even more daunting fixtures, as Alan Browne and Will Keane go head-to-head with World Cup runners-up France and the Netherlands.

Republic of Ireland have a very difficult group with those two heavyweights in, and didn’t help themselves with a 2-1 defeat in Greece in June. They have already played France at home back in March, when Les Bleus sneaked a 1-0 win thanks to a goal from Benjamin Pavard.

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With just two teams qualifying from the group, Ireland are likely to need to come away with at least a draw from one of these fixtures, and they don’t have a play-off to fall back on after a poor showing in the Nations League.

Republic of Ireland Training Session
Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Preston captain Alan Browne, and current top scorer Will Keane will play France in the Parc des Princes stadium on Thursday evening. Browne came off the bench in their last match, a 3-0 win over Gibraltar but will be hoping for a start after an impressive first five games for Preston this season. He could be set for a midfield battle with Eduardo Camavinga, and Aurélien Tchouaméni in a French side led by Kylian Mbappe.

Whilst on Sunday Keane could be readying himself to try and get the better of Liverpool captain Virgil Van Dijk.

Keane only has four caps to his name, but again could be in with a shout of featuring especially after Evan Ferguson pulled out of the squad. Adam Idah of Norwich, and Aaron Connolly of Hull City are other options available to Stephen Kenny.

Either way, after such a great start to this campaign, Preston fans will just be hoping their players come through the international break unscathed. All three have been key players so far, with a relatively thin squad available to Ryan Lowe in the first few games.

Although he will have some selection headaches for the next game at home to his former side Plymouth Argyle, with new signings Liam Millar, and Milutin Osmajic set to be available, and Ben Whiteman chomping at the bit to be involved again.

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