Northern Ireland welcome Slovakia to Windsor Park, Belfast in a huge Play-Off Final clash as both teams look to secure their spot at next summer’s Euros.
The winners of this tie will join Group E and compete against Spain, Sweden and Poland for a spot in the knockouts with ties set to be held in Bilbao, Spain, and Dublin, Republic of Ireland.
Corry Evans is ruled out for Northern Ireland after suffering a hamstring injury in Blackburn’s win over QPR at the weekend.
Aberdeen’s Matthew Kennedy has also withdrawn from the squad through injury and has been replaced in the squad by Ryan McLaughlin.
Slovakia have no fresh injury concerns with Vladimir Weiss set for his first international appearance since 2018.
- Northern Ireland are unbeaten in two of four previous meetings against Slovakia in all competitions (W1, D1, L2).
- Slovakia have won one of their two previous trips to Northern Ireland (W1, L1).
- The winning team in two previous clashes at Windsor Park, Belfast, have kept clean sheets on both occasions.
- Slovakia are unbeaten in three of their last five away trips across all competitions (W2, D1, L2).
- Northern Ireland have won just one of their last five home games in all competitions (W1, D1, L3).
With Northern Ireland entering this match without a win in their last seven matches, this is going to be a tough ask against a solid Slovakia team but if they can take confidence from their last performance in Denmark and show defensive robustness, they could stand a chance but they have to improve their quality up front in terms of taking chances clinically.
Slovakia meanwhile were taken to penalties by Northern Ireland’s neighbours, Republic of Ireland in their goalless Play-Off Semi-Final so will certainly be wary of just how tough these Irish teams can be on their day.
Finishing could therefore be absolutely crucial with a spot at next summer’s Euros at stake and given that Northern Ireland have home advantage, I reckon they could just edge this encounter.
Prediction: Northern Ireland 1-0 Slovakia
Result: Northern Ireland 1-2 Slovakia (After Extra Time)