Northern Ireland look to finish their disappointing 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifying campaign on a high as Italy visit Windsor Park, Belfast, in Group C.
Victory would see Northern Ireland finish third in Group C despite already being eliminated, whereas Italy must win and hope that Switzerland either fail to win or better their result in order to automatically qualify for 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Northern Ireland have no fresh injury concerns to report although manager, Ian Baraclough could rotate his squad with Ciaron Brown, Ethan Galbraith and Dale Taylor amongst those looking to start.
Italy have called up Davide Zapacosta following a spade of injury withdrawals in recent days.
Giorgio Chiellini (Achilles), Alessandro Bastoni (muscle), Davide Calabria (unspecified), Cristiano Biraghi (personal), Lorenzo Pellegrini (knee), Nicolo Zaniolo (knee) and Ciro Immobile (calf) are ruledout
- Northern Ireland have won just one of three previous World Cup qualifiers against Italy (W1, L2).
- Italy lost their only previous away World Cup qualifier against Northern Ireland, losing 2-1 in January 1958.
- Ireland have kept clean sheets in their last three home matches (W1, D2).
- Four of Italy’s last five goals across all competitions have all been scored in the second half.
- Northern Ireland their only previous match refereed by Istvan Kovacs – beating San Marino 4-0 in October 2016.
With only pride to play for, Northern Ireland can afford to come out and experiment in this game because facing Italy offers a huge opportunity for them to test their quality, especially after scraping a win over Lithuania on Friday amidst excellent saves to deny them on various occasions.
Italy meanwhile were sluggish in the start of their 1-1 draw against Switzerland with messy defending but recovered with a clinical equaliser, which places their qualification in their own hands but their set piece trickery could be crucial here to beat Northern Ireland.
On that note, this could well be an interesting match because if the Irish can set themselves up defensively and are clinical whilst results elsewhere go against Italy, this could get interesting but I fancy Italy to get the job done without several key players present irrespective of what Switzerland do at home to Bulgaria.
Prediction: Northern Ireland 1-2 Italy
Result: Northern Ireland 0-0 Italy