Verdict: Under 1.5 goals
Best Odds: 6/5
Two nations who simply have their sights set on trying to land a third-place finish this year, Northern Ireland will make the trip out to Bulgaria on Tuesday night.
Starting with the hosts, while Bulgaria might have made the trip out to Lithuania over the weekend smelling a golden chance, the Lions put in what was a woeful display on foreign soil. Blown away by the Group C whipping boys and hit with a shock 3-1 defeat, Yasen Petrov’s side have really gained a reputation for their rarther glaring issues. Now likely to be in a battle to avoid lifting the wooden spoon this year, their wait to land a maiden World Cup finals spot only goes on. Despite managing to land what was a flattering point against European champions Italy on September 2nd, Bulgaria have managed to win just one of their six qualifying matchups. Desperate to try and find some kind of a boost at the Vasil Levski National Stadium this week, Petrov will have a headache over his side’s extended problems on home soil. Including defeats against the likes of Wales and Hungary, Tuesday’s hosts have won just a pair of their last 12 competitive contests on home soil.
Appearing to have cemented his spot as Bulgaria’s new number one, Martin Lukov will start between the sticks on Tuesday night.
Bagging what was a consolation strike over the weekend, Ludogorets’ 24-year-old Kiril Despodov should lead the charge here.
As for the visitors, making the trip out to Switzerland over the weekend knowing that they faced a stern test on foreign soil, Northern Ireland find themselves in a very similar position to Tuesday’s opponents. Heavily outplayed on foreign soil and suffering what was a deserved 2-0 defeat against the Swiss, the Greens have largely failed to find their feet under Head Coach Ian Baraclough. Also managing to muster just five Group C points and almost stuck in qualifying limbo, they have the feel of a nation simply playing for pride. With it appearing that last month’s 4-1 romp away at Lithuania might have just been a minor boost, the midweek guests have won just a trio of their previous 14 straight matchups across all formats, a run that stems back to October 2020. Looking to try and find a boost on their travels, Baraclough will also have a real headache over his side’s extended problems in the final third. Along with drawing back-to-back blanks, they have also failed to find the net in four of their previous five fixtures on the road.
Shown that controversial first-half red card over the weekend, full-back Jamal Lewis will be missing due to suspension.
Along with Leicester defender Jonny Evans withdrawing due to an injury issue, Northern Ireland will also be without the likes of Michael Smith, Alistair McCann, Gavin Whyte.
Key Factors to Consider
- When the two nations faced off back in March, they played out a 0-0 stalemate.
- Northern Ireland have drawn a blank in four of their last five matchups on foreign soil.
- Both sides have managed to land just a single World Cup qualifying victory so far this year.
- Bulgaria have won just a pair of their last 12 competitive contests on home soil.
- Continuing on from their last qualifying run, Northern Ireland have seen just one of their last eight contests finish with over 2.5 goals.
Two sides who find themselves in real qualifying limbo, we could have what turns out to be another cagey affair on Tuesday night. With Bulgaria coming off the back of a woeful display out in Lithuania over the weekend, don’t be surprised to see chances come at a real premium here. With both nations showing some extended issues in the final third, we might have another contest like March’s showdown. With the midweek opponents playing out a 0-0 stalemate earlier in the year, it should also be noted that their last three meetings have produced just a pair of strikes. With Northern Ireland also drawing a blank in four of their last five contests on the road, we’re backing a similar low-scoring meeting at the Vasil Levski National Stadium.
Verdict: Under 1.5 goals
Best Odds: 6/5
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