Norway vs Northern Ireland live stream, Sky Sports, Wednesday, October 14, 7.45pm BST
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A dramatic penalty shoot-out success against Bosnia-Herzegovina leaves Northern Ireland just one game away from qualification for the European Championship. Their showdown with Slovakia takes place in Belfast in a month’s time.
In the meantime, Northern Ireland need to drag themselves out of the Nations League relegation zone. Finishing bottom of Group 1 would see them relegated out of League 2 and into League 3, a setback that manager Ian Baraclough will be keen to avoid.
Northern Ireland drew their opening fixture of the season in Romania, before suffering a 5-1 thrashing at the hands of Norway. They were more competitive against Austria last time out but were still unable to avoid defeat. That 1-0 loss on Sunday leaves them three points adrift of third-placed Romania at the midway point of the campaign.
Northern Ireland will need all their doggedness and resolve to halt an in-form Norway side on Wednesday. An Erling Haaland hat-trick - the Borussia Dortmund sensation now has scored six goals in three Group 1 games - helped Lars Lagerback’s men to a 4-0 victory over Romania at the weekend, keeping Norway level on points with table-toppers Austria.
Excitement is brewing in Norway thanks to Haaland’s emergence, Alexander Sorloth’s improvement and Martin Odegaard’s rejuvenation. All three should start here, with Lagerback favouring a 4-4-2 formation with Sorloth and Haaland up front. That means Bournemouth forward Josh King will probably have to settle for a place among the substitutes.
Baraclough has no fresh injury concerns and could stick with the same starting XI that was narrowly beaten by Austria. If any changes are to be made, Connor Washington or Josh Magennis replacing Kyle Lafferty up front is perhaps the most likely.
Elsewhere Steven Davis, who became Northern Ireland’s most-capped player of all time last week, is in line to make his 122nd appearance for his country.Scotland are on a roll. It’s now seven games unbeaten for Steve Clarke’s side, who haven’t tasted defeat since a 4-0 thrashing by Russia over a year ago.
Their most important victory of recent times came last week, when the Scots squeezed past Israel on penalties to set up a winner-takes-all play-off against Serbia next month. Another win there would see Scotland qualify for Euro 2020 (which has retained its original name despite being pushed back to 2021), ending a two-decade wait for participation in another major international tournament.
They’re also going well in the second season of the Nations League. A 1-0 defeat of Slovakia on Sunday moved Scotland onto seven points from a possible nine, and victory over Czech Republic at Hampden Park would take them a huge step closer to earning promotion to League A.
Scotland beat the Czechs 2-1 away from home last month, a fine result even if their opponents were forced to field a second-string following a coronavirus outbreak. They’re currently one point clear of Jaroslav Silhavy’s side, meaning the winners on Wednesday will be favourites to finish top of Group 2.
Stuart Armstrong, Kieran Tierney and Ryan Christie will play no part for the hosts after being forced into self-isolation following Armstrong’s positive coronavirus test. Sheffield United duo Oliver Burke and John Fleck will also miss out through injury.
Clarke will hope Ryan Fraser is fit enough to play the full 90 minutes if required, while Scott McTominay looks set to continue in defence as part of Scotland’s 3-5-2 formation.
Czech Republic have also had their pandemic-related issues, with Antonin Barak, Borek Dockal, Filip Novak and Adam Hlozek all forced to leave the squad.
Burnley striker Matej Vydra will lead the line and West Ham’s Tomas Soucek looks set to continue as one of the two holding midfielders in the Czechs’ 4-2-3-1 formation.
Kick-off is at 7.45pm BST and the game is being shown on Sky Sports Red Button in the UK. See below for watching details where you are.
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