MX23RW : Thursday, July 29 15:24:02| >> :600:4401613:4401613:
Nov 18, 2020 at 7.45pm UK at Windsor Park
Northern IrelandNorthern Ireland
1-1
RomaniaRomania
Boyce (56')
FT(HT: 0-0)
Bicfalvi (81')

Preview: Northern Ireland vs. Romania - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Wednesday's Nations League clash between Northern Ireland and Romania, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Cast adrift of League B Group 1's leading pair, heartbroken Northern Ireland and rivals Romania meet in Belfast on Wednesday both seeking to seal survival in the Nations League's second tier.

Northern Ireland's loss and Romania's inability to play their previous match last Sunday has left the situation looking both somewhat confused and particularly precarious for the Ulstermen.


Match preview

Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough pictured on September 7, 2020© Reuters

Still reeling from their playoff final heartbreak at the hands of Slovakia, Northern Ireland's poor run of results continued as two late goals saw them suffer an unfortunate 2-1 defeat away to Austria on Sunday - a loss which means Ian Baraclough's men are in severe danger of being relegated from League B.

They have just one point from five matches in this compressed campaign and are bottom of League B Group 1, three points behind their third-placed opponents on Wednesday.

Baraclough's side host Romania in the final group match at Windsor Park, knowing that even a victory in Belfast may well not be enough for them to avoid the relegation trapdoor.

This is because the picture at the bottom of the group has been clouded by the postponement of Sunday's other Group 1 game, between Romania and Norway. That fixture was called off at short notice because of a positive COVID-19 case in the Norwegian camp before kickoff.

UEFA continues to deliberate on how to allocate points for the tie, but if Romania are awarded all three, that would mean Northern Ireland will be unable to match their points tally, whatever the outcome when the pair meet.

Despite overcoming Bosnia on penalties in a Euro 2020 playoff semi-final in October, Northern Ireland have failed to win any of Baraclough's seven matches in charge since he took the reins from the popular Michael O'Neill. Relegation to League C would perhaps confirm to his doubters - like his counterpart in the Republic, Stephen Kenny - that he is simply the wrong man at the wrong time.

September's 1-1 draw in Bucharest brought their only point so far, while opponents Romania have also managed an impressive win away to Austria since, leaving them on four points from four games.

Regardless of the vagaries of UEFA's decision-makers, the Tricolorii know that an away point at Windsor Park would be enough to ensure their stay at this level for when the Nations League returns next time.

Only in Norway - when they were battered by a Erling Braut Haaland hat-trick - have Romania been outclassed in this section and they will travel in confidence given the waning form of their opposition.

That loss in Oslo was followed by a 1-0 defeat at home to Austria, having also lost 2-1 to Iceland in their Euro 2020 playoff semi-final tie. Coach Mirel Radoi has struggled for momentum since replacing Cosmin Contra late last year and will therefore be motivated to complete a mixed campaign with maximum points.

Northern Ireland Nations League form: DLLLL
Northern Ireland form (all competitions): LDLLLL

Romania Nations League form: DWLL
Romania form (all competitions): DWLLLW


Team News

Paddy McNair pictured for Northern Ireland in September 2020© Reuters

Against Austria, Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough made eight changes to the starting lineup that lost the playoff final to Slovakia. Stuart Dallas, midfielder Paddy McNair and striker Conor Washington were the only three players retained, while St Johnstone's Ali McCann made his debut and Liam Boyce partnered Washington up front.

Captain Steven Davis has pulled out of Wednesday's game, along with Kyle Lafferty, Niall McGinn and Jordan Thompson. Davis and Lafferty have withdrawn due to personal reasons, while McGinn and Thompson are injured.

Baraclough also changed his side's shape from 4-3-3 to 3-5-2 and should be minded to persist in that manner, given the solid performance it helped produce in Vienna.

Defenders Vlad Chiriches, of Serie A high-flyers Sassuolo, and Mihai Balasa are both injured for Romania, while goalkeeper Valentin Cojocaru misses out through COVID-19 infection and Nicusor Bancu is also absent.

However, Mirel Radoi's squad have the benefit of not playing at the weekend - albeit amid difficult circumstances - and it is likely that they will employ a 4-3-3 setup, with either Denis Alibec or Reading's George Puscas leading the line.

Northern Ireland possible starting lineup:
Peacock-Farrell; Flanagan, Evans, Cathcart; Ferguson, McCann, Smith, McNair, Dallas; Boyce, Washington

Romania possible starting lineup:
Tatarusanu; Bancu, Tosca, Nedelecaru, Manea; Maxim, Marin, Stanciu; Deac, Alibec, Tanase


SM words green background

We say: Northern Ireland 1-1 Romania

The hosts can bring a second desperately disappointing Nations League campaign to a close by avoiding another defeat, following an encouraging showing in their arguably unjust defeat on Sunday.

Romania's technical ability means that they may have most of the ball against a side which only had 28% possession versus Austria, but that may not be enough to break down a typically-resilient Northern Ireland XI.


Top betting tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 1.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 1.5:data

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Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough pictured on September 4, 2020
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· Comeback queen and super-mum Helen Glover goes for her third Olympic gold alongside Polly Swann in the women's pair final (1.30am)
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RUGBY SEVENS
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· It is a Great Britain vs. Netherlands double-header, with the men up first in Pool B (4.15am)
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