By Aidan Elder | Chief sports writer
Northern Ireland v Luxembourg
Windsor Park – Tuesday 7.45pm – Sky Sports 3
Northern Ireland came away from the trip to Moscow with little more than over-sized Toblerones from the duty-free and some grumbles about some suspect refereeing, but their performance should give them confidence for the remainder of the qualifying campaign. Michael O’Neill’s men gave a very good account of themselves in defeat against a team allegedly 113 world ranking places better than them.
Based on Friday’s performance, they should get their first points on the board when they host Luxembourg, but they’d also be well advised to avoid complacency against the team from the Grand Duchy. The Red Lions are on the up and closing in on their highest ever FIFA world ranking. They gave a star-studded Portugal team a hard time as they kicked off their campaign with a narrow 2-1 defeat and in general they’ve moved away from being whipping boys, particularly on their own patch.
The form away from home is less convincing however and they’ve conceded 15 goals in their last four games on the road. Northern Ireland’s form in front of the Windsor Park faithful isn’t as solid as it was around the time of the Lawrie Sanchez’s managerial reign, but they are good enough to claim their first win since beating the Faroe Islands last August. Expecting them to run up a cricket score isn’t a great idea, but victory at 2/5 is well within their reach.
The ‘I don’t like making predictions’ prediction: Northern Ireland 2-1 @ 7/1