Baraclough’s side will head into this evening’s game against Austria in a confident mood after their nail-biting victory over the Bosnians on Thursday night which leaves Northern Ireland one game away from another European Championship finals appearance.
Despite the win on penalties on Thursday, Northern Ireland head into this fixture searching for their first competitive win in 90 minutes since June 2019 when a late Paddy McNair goal saw the side, led by Michael O’Neill at the time, complete an away double header in Minsk after Washington and Magennis turned the game around in Tallin three days earlier. Northern Ireland are also looking for their first Nations League win after having only been able to muster one point out of the six games split over two campaigns so far.
Baraclough will see this evening’s fixture at Windsor Park, and Wednesday’s trip to Norway as tough but important opportunities to prepare for the play-off final against Slovakia next month. Despite that, and with club managers likely to be watching a close eye, Baraclough is likely to rotate his squad in the upcoming Nations League games.
Of course, Austria are no strangers to Northern Ireland having been in our group last time around, with the Austrians winning by a single goal on each occasion: 1-0 in Vienna, before a cruel 2-1 win in Belfast. They also come into this game in confident mood with 8 wins in their last 11 games. In last month’s Nations League fixtures, the Austrians impressively beat Norway in Oslo 2-1 before losing 3-2 at home to Romania.
Michael Gregoritsch is likely to be the key man for the Austrians, having scored in both of their last two games. As with Thursday in the case of Edin Dzeko, it will be key for the Northern Ireland defence to control Gregoritsch should we want to get anything out of the game.
There will be around 600 members of the Green and White Army in attendance at the fixture, and all GAWA will be hoping that the logistics go swimmingly to boost the chances of more fans being allowed into the play-off final in a month’s time.
Last Time Around
Northern Ireland 1 (C.Evans)
Austria 2 (Schlager, Lazaro)
Austria’s FIFA Ranking: 27
Austria’s Form: WLWLW
Head To Head
NI wins: 4
Austria wins: 4
Predicted NI line-up
Peacock-Farrell, Dallas, J.Evans, Cathcart, Lewis, McNair, Davis, Thompson, Jones, Magennis, Washington