Over the last 97 years, there are few European teams that Ireland have not faced.

Among nations currently affiliated to UEFA, the Boys In Green have now gone up against all but four nations: Azerbaijan, Kosovo, Slovenia and Ukraine.

Kosovo were only accepted into European football's governing body as well as FIFA five years ago, while the other three broke away from the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia - in Slovenia's case - during the 1990s.

But on Saturday, the Boys In Green will tick one off that list with Azerbaijan the visitors to the Aviva Stadium in a 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier in which both teams are searching for their first points in Group A.

Ireland will be clear favourites given that Azerbaijan are ranked 112th in the world but the side from the Caucuses are an unknown quantity given the paucity of head-to-head matches and the fact they have yet to come close to reaching a major tournament.

But to get an insight on the side Stephen Kenny's players will grapple with next, RTÉ Sport spoke to Baku-based sports journalist and broadcaster Farid Akhundov.

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Azerbaijan's current FIFA ranking is a far cry from when they peaked at no. 73 during ex-Germany and Scotland manager Berti Vogts' tenure between 2008 and 2014.

But despite highs like a famous 1-0 win over Turkey in 2010, the Vogts era is a time Azerbaijani observers view as "unsatisfactory" according to Akhundov, who goes on to describe it as one in which the national team "lost priceless time" with few meaningful changes made and a philosophy at odds with the general prevailing style.

These days, they are coming off the back of a 2-1 defeat on Wednesday to the Luxembourg side that stunned Ireland in Dublin back in March.

But Akhundov explains that the selection by current Azerbaijan manager Gianni De Biasi for that defeat was not the first choice team with Poland-based leading players, striker Mahir Emreli and defender Anton Krivotsyuk, only sprung from the bench after half-time when already 2-0 down.

Those two are expected to return to the starting line-up in Dublin according to Akhundov who also points out that De Biasi has put a heavy focus on defence including experiments with a back five on occasion.

Azerbaijan boss Gianni de Biasi (R) during a national team press conference

That has paid off with Azerbaijan not conceding more than two goals in a game in the last two years including in a gutsy 1-0 loss in Portugal in March, while they kept four clean sheets in a row last autumn and winter in the UEFA Nations League, albeit against modest opposition.

However, Akhundov adds that "there are certain shortcomings in terms of attack" with the side finding a regular supply of goals hard to come by.

But given that they have nothing to lose, he does suggest that Azerbaijan could show more attacking intent against Ireland as he raises the possibility that "maybe (Azerbaijan) could end these qualifiers without points".

The aforementioned Emreli will play a part if Azerbaijan are to threaten the Irish defence.

"Emreli plays for Legia Warsaw and he performs very well," Akhundov explains.

"He's the best player in our team. Emreli scored six goals this year for Legia. At the same time, he scored in UEFA Champions League qualifying and Europa League qualifying for Legia Warsaw.

"Also Emin Mahmudov is doing good work for Neftchi (Baku). There's also another effective weapon like (Filip) Ozobic in midfield."

Emin Mahmudov

Ozobic is one of nine players in the squad from Azerbaijan's most well-known club Qarabag, who defeated Dundalk comprehensively in the Champions League qualifiers in the summer of 2019.

They have carried the flag for Azerbaijani football, regularly qualifying for the Europa League group stages, while they will be involved in the Conference League this autumn.

And most impressively of all, they reached the Champions League group stages in 2017-18 when they took on major sides Roma, Atletico Madrid and Chelsea.

It's not quite been a case of a rising tide lifting all boats when it comes to the impact on the national team in terms of results but Akhundov does feel there have been benefits in terms of growing the aforementioned playing pool for Azerbaijan including newcomers like Toral Bayramov and Abbas Huseynov who are among those to have gained experience playing in European competition.

However, worries over Ireland's style are causing concern for Azerbaijani observers.

"It frightens us because the Irish team like free-kicks, corner kicks and it's hard to defend these balls for us," he says.

So that may prove a profitable avenue for Ireland once the action kicks off on Saturday.

Follow the Republic of Ireland v Azerbaijan via our live blog on RTÉ.ie/sport and the RTÉ News app, watch live on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player, or listen to live commentary on RTÉ Radio 1's Saturday Sport.