Saturday, November 28, 2020

Prediction: Northern Ireland vs Slovakia

Verdict: Both teams to score – no

Best Odds: 2/3

Bookmaker: Unibet

Knowing they’re within touching distance of securing their spot at next year’s delayed European Championships, Northern Ireland will welcome Slovakia to Belfast on Thursday night.

Northern Ireland

Starting with the hosts, while Northern Ireland might have managed to secure that dramatic penalties victory away at Bosnia-Herzegovina in what was a tense encounter last month, the Greens have struggled to find much momentum heading into Thursday’s showdown. Enduring what has been a difficult run in this year’s Nations League tournament, they were last seen getting hit with back-to-back 1-0 defeats at the hands of Norway and Austria. Struggling to fully find their feet since bringing in new boss Ian Baraclough who replaced Micheal O’Neill back in July, Northern Ireland have failed to win any of their last seven contests across all competitions within 90 minutes. If Thursday’s hosts are to book their spot at EURO 2021, then there is no doubt that they will be desperate to make some much-needed alterations in the final third. Drawing a blank in their back-to-back defeats against Norway and Austria, the Greens have managed to bag more than a single goal in just one of their last 12 appearances.

Team News

In a boost for Northern Ireland in midweek, Leicester defender Johnny Evans is expected to feature on Thursday night.

However, the Greens will be without Blackburn’s Corry Evans.

Slovakia

As for the visitors, managing to knock out the Republic of Ireland in their own penalty shoot-out thriller last month, Slovakia almost find themselves stuck in an identical position to Thursday’s hosts. Despite their dramatic victory on home soil, the Whites have also flattered to deceive while on Nations League duties so far this season. Throwing away a 2-0 lead in what was hugely worrying fashion, caretaker boss Štefan Tarkovič saw his side ship three second-half goals and they have now managed to pick up just a single point from their four appearances in this year’s tournament. Also failing to win any of their last five contests across all formats within 90 minutes, the Falcons should at least take some solace from their eye-catching record against Northern Ireland. In their three competitive meetings against the Greens, Slovakia have collected seven points over all three of their previous meetings against the hosts.

Team News

After earning his last cap back in 2018, Vladimir Weiss is expected to feature on Thursday night.

Inter Milan defender Milan Skriniar is also set for a return after missing the Republic of Ireland showdown last month.

Key Factors to Consider

  • When the two sides last faced off back in 2016, Northern Ireland and Slovakia played out a 0-0 draw in Belfast.
  • In their three competitive matchups against the Greens, Thursday’s guests have collected seven points.
  • Northern Ireland have managed to score more than a single goal in just one of their last 12 appearances across all formats.
  • Nine of Slovakia’s last 11 matchups on foreign soil have seen under 2.5 goals by the final whistle.
  • Likewise, four of Northern Ireland’s last five home fixtures have seen under 2.5 goals by the final whistle.

Conclusion

On paper, Thursday’s meeting in Belfast should prove to be a cagey encounter between two sides who have struggled to find much momentum. While both Northern Ireland and Slovakia might have managed to land dramatic penalties victories last month, they followed that up with back-to-back Nations League defeats. With the Greens only continuing to show a string of issues in the final third and managing to score more than a single goal in just one of their last 12 appearances across all formats, it should also be noted that when they last faced off against Slovakia back in 2016 they played out a 0-0 draw on home soil.

Verdict: Both teams to score – no

Best Odds: 2/3

Bookmaker: Unibet

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Dunstan


Formerly of The Independent, Tom is a freelance football and boxing journalist from Essex, England. Currently working for three online publications, Tom is a graduate of the University of Falmouth and has spent the last two years writing across Australia, New Zealand and Asia. He can be followed at @IamTomDunstan

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