Euro 2016 Qualifying: N Ireland v Finland

Northern Ireland's Euro 2016 qualifier against Finland will be staged against the backdrop of religious protests at the first international to be played on a Sunday in the country.

Michael O'Neill's men made a blistering start to the campaign, winning their first three fixtures before losing to Group F leaders Romania last time out.

That result left Northern Ireland one point adrift in second, but the ill-feeling surrounding this weekend's fixture at Windsor Park has provided O'Neill with an unwelcome distraction.

The Free Presbyterian Church is reportedly set to hold a service 75 minutes before kick-off at the nearby Tyndale Memorial church, while the Evangelical Protestant Society voiced its opposition in a statement.

"The Evangelical Protestant Society is deeply saddened by the decision to proceed with the Euro 2016 qualifying match between Northern Ireland and Finland in Windsor Park this Sunday [29 March 2015]," it read. 

"This will be the first time an international football match has been held in Belfast on a Sunday, and it marks another watershed moment in modern Ulster's increasing rejection of the Lord's Day.

"We fully accept that we are out of step with the majority of public opinion on this matter, and we suspect that many who claim to be Protestants will be present at Windsor Park on Sunday."

O'Neill addressed the issue earlier this week, saying: "We appreciate and understand people's religious beliefs but the game must be played on Sunday, as that date was decreed when the fixture was made by UEFA."

On the field, Group F's top three sides could effectively turn the chase for a place at the tournament in France into a three-horse race this weekend.

While Northern Ireland welcome fourth-placed Finland, leaders Romania and third-placed Hungary host Faroe Islands (fifth) and Greece (sixth) respectively.

The gap between third and fourth could be six points by the end of Sunday's matches.

Northern Ireland's preparations have not been ideal, but O'Neill insists he took "more positives than negatives" from a 1-0 friendly defeat in Scotland on Wednesday.

O'Neill lost Ben Reeves to a calf injury on Thursday, but it is opposite number Mixu Paatelainen who is under most pressure following a disappointing run of results.

"There is always pressure," he said. "The biggest pressures will, however, come from myself, because I always want to win every game.

"This is not always the case, of course, and there are good and bad moments. The last two qualifying matches have been bad moments and it is clear that we need to improve."