Sunday, June 24, 2018

Azerbaijan – Northern Ireland Preview: Lafferty and Hughes ruled out for visitors

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 10 Oct 2013


Michael O’Neill will hope to boost his chances of sealing a new deal as Northern Ireland boss when they travel to Azerbaijan on Friday.

The sides previously met in World Cup qualifying November 2012, with David Healy rescuing a point in the 96th-minute of a frustrating encounter for Northern Ireland in Belfast.

O’Neill has now taken charge of 12 games, winning just one – although that was in impressive circumstances away to Russia in European qualification Group F in August.

Last time out, they slipped to a surprising 3-2 defeat to Luxembourg, although they were already unable to qualify for Brazil 2014 prior to that loss.

However, O’Neill is confident his players will bounce back in future qualification processes, which he hopes to be a big part of.

“I’ve had discussions with the IFA board and they have been positive – I’ve said all along that I would like to continue in the role,” said O’Neill.

“I think there has been a major transition in the squad, it’s a very young squad with not much experience.

“They will be better for the experience of taking part in the qualifying campaign and I’ll certainly be better for the experience of managing during it.”

O’Neill has been hit with a number of injuries ahead of the clash. Experienced defender Aaron Hughes and Aberdeen striker Josh Magennis have been ruled out and replaced by Rory McArdle and Andy Little respectively.

Palermo forward Kyle Lafferty is banned for the match, but could return for his country’s final qualifier against Israel on Tuesday.

The Irish will have to be wary of Azeri hot-shot Rufat Dadashov, who has enjoyed a fine 2013 so far.

After making his international debut against Qatar in February, the Kaiserslautern II striker has scored three goals in his six appearances and is hoping to keep his form going on Friday.

“Training is good, the atmosphere in the team is good, the coach satisfied with the training process,” the 24-year-old said.

“Moreover, the Northern Ireland team will be very difficult to match. They favour an aggressive style of football, but we will do everything to win.

“In recent months we have had a good shape, so I think we can achieve victory here.”

Azerbaijan coach Berti Vogts has selected a fairly youthful squad for their upcoming fixtures against Northern Ireland and Russia.

Experienced duo Branimir Subasic and Aleksandr Chertoganov have not made the cut, despite having almost 100 international caps between them, with just one player in the squad – defender and captain Rashad Sadygov – over the age of 30.


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