Sunday October 11, 7.45pm
Sky Sports Football
After the highs of Thursday’s penalty shootout win against Bosnia, it’s going to be quite a comedown for the Green and White Army on Sunday night against Austria in a lowly Nations League affair. Ian Baraclough’s side exerted an awful lot of energy in Bosnia on Thursday, holding their fancied hosts over 120 gruelling minutes of football and they should ring the changes ahead of what is a glorified friendly.
The Nations League only offers two World Cup play-off spots this time around and Northern Ireland are already unlikely to make them so Sunday’s fixture is an opportunity to experiment and give some of their veteran players a well-earned rest. Austria, on the other hand, played a meaningless friendly on Wednesday evening, a full 24 hours before Northern Ireland played, and they should be full of energy at Windsor Park.
The Austrians have enjoyed a mixed bag so far in the Nations League, recording an impressive win in Norway before succumbing to an unlikely defeat at home to Romania. This is an opportunity for them to go top of Group B1 and they should take it with both hands with an Austria Win. Northern Ireland, meanwhile, could be left stranded at the bottom of the group.
While Northern Ireland are typically watertight at the back, they have been leakier since Baraclough took the reins. The Northern Irish have failed to keep a clean sheet in Baraclough’s three games to date and shipped five goals at home last month as Norway ran riot.
Bosnia had plenty of chances to score against Northern Ireland on Thursday and it seems unlikely that they will be able to keep Austria out on Sunday, especially since Baraclough is likely to make changes at the back.
Austria, on the other hand, have conceded four goals in their two Nations League games and also conceded in Wednesday’s friendly win over Greece.
Furthermore, Northern Ireland have managed to score in each of Baraclough’s three games at the helm and they have a good chance of breaching the Austrian defence themselves. This could be relatively high-scoring so we’re on Over 2.5 Goals.
The Austrian striker earned a big money move to Ligue 1 side Lorient after a prolific season with Clermont last year in the French second division and he has already made a promising start to his international career, scoring Austria’s equaliser in their 2-1 win over Greece on Wednesday in his first international start.
Austria, who are fairly light up front, may reward Grbic with a first competitive start on Sunday night and he is sure to get chances against Northern Ireland.
At the very least, he will make an appearance off the bench like he has done in Austria’s opening two Nations League games and Grbic could make his mark when the game is stretched with a goal anytime.
Tips for Northern Ireland v Austria on Sunday at 19:45
These three selections in a Same Game Multi will give you odds of around 7/2 with Paddy Power.
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