Best odds: 41/20
Northern Ireland and Norway continue their respective UEFA Nations League campaigns on Monday evening. They’re set to face each other at Windsor Park in Belfast, after faring differently in the opening round earlier this week.
Having recently appointed Ian Baraclaugh as the manager, the Green and White Army will have been delighted with the point they booked away to Romania on Friday. They were a goal down since the 25th minute, courtesy of George Puscas, and a man down since the 39th when Josh Magennis got his marching orders through a second yellow. Nonetheless, goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell produced a heroic display to keep his team in the contest before substitute Gavin Whyte found an equalizer with less than five minutes remaining on the clock.
The point they took keeps them above Norway at the bottom of League B Group 1 at the moment, with the same tally as Romania naturally, and behind current pack leaders Austria. Baraclough’s team are widely perceived as the underdogs of the group, and finishing anywhere but the last place, which is to say, avoiding relegation to League C, would be classified as a very decent result.
However, they will be hoping to take advantage of Norway’s poor start and increase their tally at their expense.
Magennis is now unavailable for selection, of course, as he serves his one-match ban. Forward Connor Washington didn’t play particularly well against Romania, and Baraclough might turn to Whyte and Kyle Lafferty from the start this time.
Things started looking gloomy for the Scandinavians in this edition of the Nations League straight away. After 35 minutes of their opening match, at home against Austria, they were a goal down, courtesy of Michael Gregoritsch. Their predicament became worse in the 54th minute, when RB Leipzig midfielder Marcel Sabitzer doubled Austria’s lead from the spot. The goal from Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland 12 minutes later, his first at senior international level, proved no more than consolation.
The result, coupled with the draw between Romania and Northern Ireland, left Norway sitting bottom of the group. There is, of course, a long way to go yet, but they now must get something from Belfast in order to help their chances of avoiding relegation, they wouldn’t want to leave it late. Lars Lagerbaeck’s men shouldn’t lack motivation for this game.
Striker Alexander Sorloth, currently at Trabzonspor on loan from Crystal Palace, has been on decent form recently and having begun the Austria game on the bench, he could be given a start ahead of Joshua King in Norther Ireland. Defender Martin Linnes and midfielder Markus Henriksen also made a contribution coming off the bench and will be hoping to have done enough to start.
One shouldn’t read too much into the first-round results when these teams are concerned, especially given the way Northern Ireland managed to claw away a point in Romania. There can be very little doubt that both teams will give their best to get a favourable result, and a fierce battle in the middle of the park is more than likely. As for the outcome, both sides will probably get something from the game.
Best odds: 41/20
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