Stephen Kenny is hoping that the "phenomenon" Erling Haaland is leading the line at the Aviva Stadium next Thursday as Ireland take on Norway in an international friendly fixture.

The Manchester City striker is without doubt the most devastating front man in the world game at the moment and Haaland will travel to Dublin having been named in the Norway squad for the end-of-year encounter.

Haaland has been struggling with a foot injury, however, his club manager, Pep Guardiola confirmed that his bone was not broken and said that he would have his blessing to play for Norway if he feels fine for the upcoming international fixtures.

And that is good news for Ireland manager Kenny who wants to see Norway at their best in Dublin, which will help his side on their continual quest to improve as an international unit.

"He is a phenomenon," said Kenny, speaking at Thursday's press conference. "He is a very exciting player, he has electric speed and incredible capacity to score goals, and physical strength.

"His goal ratio with Dortmund and Norway was really high, and he has followed that up with Man City which isn’t a surprise considering the level of player around him. He seems to just love playing football and it will be interesting to see how he does.

"I'd like them (Norway) to play their best players. We all want to see that, their best players, we all want to see great games of football, we're looking to improve and we're not the finished article."

Kenny, however, was quick to point out that Norway were not a one-man team and expects a quality encounter between the two sides at the Lansdowne Road arena.

"You have other good players like [Martin] Odegaard, a terrific player," added Kenny. "Norway have some really good players.

"From our point of view, it’s good preparation for France in March, I feel, that’s a very important game for us in March. We have got to make sure we are ready then, and this game is good preparation for that.

"The games against Portugal home and away, Scotland home and away, Ukraine away, even the friendly here with Belgium, they were great games of football in my opinion, really excellent games and the public can really relate to that, see it, and hence we have 45,000 already sold next week, for a friendly with Norway.

"That's encouraging, it inspires the players, it's good for the players to come into that, an almost full house for a friendly."

Kenny named a 26-man squad for the international double-header – Ireland also play Malta away on Sunday week – and while there was a first call-up to the senior squad for Evan Ferguson and Will Smallbone, there were also some notable absentees.

Callum O'Dowda is playing good football at Cardiff City

The battle for the left wing-back position has got really competitive with Enda Stevens and Ryan Manning both missing out, while Robbie Brady and James McClean appear to be head-to-head for that particular spot.

"To be fair, Enda has been injured for a long time, his calf injury, he's come through a couple of games, a few 70 minutes under his belt, he obviously had some injury problems and was fired back in," said Kenny.

"He's been a really consistent player for Ireland but he's only coming back, he's not played 90 minutes. Ryan is also a very good player.

"Robbie has been very good, he's played in midfield for Preston once or twice recently and operated on the right wing in one match, I was at Preston-Swansea last week and he played left wing-back."

And Kenny threw another player into the mix for a left-sided role, a player who has been unavailable for a large part of the manager’s tenure, but one that Kenny has always referenced.

"The player in that position who is doing really well at club level at the moment is Callum O'Dowda," said Kenny.

"He has been injured, mainly in my spell as manager he has been injured, but he has shaken off that, he's someone I have high regard for, he's hit good form in a team that's at the lower end of the championship but he's playing really well for Cardiff.

"He can play at wing back. He's athletic and quick, can play in a few positions, has played in a lot of positions for Cardiff and he's someone who is a good prospect."

Conor Coventry is getting closer to the senior squad

Conor Coventry was another name that was name-checked at the squad announcement, and it appears that the West Ham man would have been included had former team-mate Josh Cullen been ruled out through injury.

"There was a question mark over Josh Cullen because he was out with a hamstring. If Josh hadn’t made it, Conor would be in contention for that position," said Kenny. "Josh missed a couple of games but played last Saturday.

"I picked Conor for the Under-21s when he was very young. He’s had two Under-21 campaigns and was a regular at that level. I know his qualities.

"He’s played in the Conference League and an hour in the Carabao Cup which is fine but it’s very hard to get a Premier League opportunity with the level of player there. He’s another with a very good attitude and values."

And as for the man of the moment, Evan Ferguson, Kenny said that he really sees him as a real prospect for the future, however, he feels that his next step at club level could well be his toughest assignment to date.

"We are still learning about Evan," said Kenny. "He made his debut for Bohemians when he was very young, and it's gone well for him at Brighton, to a degree.

"The next step is the hardest step, to get into the first team and play regularly. He's up against international players in that position in (Leandro) Trossard and (Danny) Welbeck, it's not easy.

"I'm not certain what their plan is Brighton, if he'll stay or get some experience on loan, it's quite possible he will go and get some experience on loan, and it would be good for him to play regular football.

"He is a good prospect, we're not trying to go overboard about him, I am sure he has a lot to learn but he seems to have a very good attitude. He's a good professional, and that will help him."