MX23RW : Tuesday, March 26 17:23:06

Aaron Hughes doubtful for Northern Ireland's qualifiers

Aaron Hughes is expected to sit out Northern Ireland's qualifiers against Germany and Norway next week after aggravating a calf injury in Hearts' defeat to Dundee.

Hearts defender Aaron Hughes is a major doubt for Northern Ireland's final batch of World Cup qualifying fixtures after limping off injured against Dundee on Saturday afternoon.

The 37-year-old was replaced seven minutes into his side's eventual 2-1 loss at Dens Park due to a slight issue with his calf, which was flagged in the build-up to the match.

"We knew he might struggle with his calf injury," Hearts boss Craig Levein told reporters after the Scottish Premiership clash. "We decided to give him a chance but obviously it didn't last and forced us into the change."

Northern Ireland may now be without their most-capped outfield player for games against Germany and Norway over the next seven days, as he will likely need time to recover.

Michael O'Neill's men are in a strong position on the road to Russia, sitting second in the Group C standings and on the brink of securing a best-placed runners-up berth to reach the playoffs.


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Gareth McAuley of West Bromwich Albion during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion at Britannia Stadium on August 29, 2015 in Stoke on Trent, England.
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