After a 2-0 win over Estonia broke them out of a winless slump, can Northern Ireland build up some momentum in these home games to leverage their Euro 2020 qualification campaign?
Belarus need points here
Before their humbling 4-0 defeat to Holland; Belarus hadn’t lost in their past six games. Granted the opposition was all relatively low ranked teams, namely: San Marino, Moldova and Luxembourg. These three made up their Nations League group, but Belarus could only compete with what was in front of them and four wins and two draws is nothing to scoff at. The step up in quality made for extremely hard going on Thursday night, they trailed after just one minute and rarely got close to troubling the Dutch rear guard.
It’s looking like a tough group for Belarus to make a mark on, with Germany to play in June after this game they could really do with picking up some points. They may well view Northern Ireland as an opportunity to gain said points. Germany and Holland are streets ahead, but this Northern Ireland side has struggled in recent times and they were far from convincing in their 2-0 win over Estonia. They were wasteful in possession and struggled for long periods to break down their opponents. That will have given Belarus some confidence that they can make life difficult for the hosts. They’re the outsiders at 5.5 to win the match, they may be able to frustrate their opponents and grind the game out which would make 2.1 for a Belarus win or draw a great price.
It’s a similar story for Northern Ireland
Regardless of their poor run up until the Estonia game, fans would have been looking at these two home games as a sure six points and anything less will be deemed a disappointment. Particularly with the big guns to play later on in the campaign, a solid foundation is key to success. Belarus hadn’t conceded a single goal in the Nations League so seeing them opened up by Holland, particularly early on will give Northern Ireland belief they can do exactly the same. However, the hosts have struggled for goals, there has been under 2.5 goals in their last six games. A selection which could be likely again here as Belarus will set up in a 4-5-1 formation, they’ll double up out wide and compress the midfield, whether they have the legs to do it for a full 90 minutes remains to be seen. Under 2.5 goals is priced at 1.4, with under 1.5 at 2.4.
Back the hosts to scrape through
I can see this being a very arduous game for Northern Ireland, they huffed and puffed against Estonia and Belarus arguably have more quality. They’ll be disciplined and regimented and it’ll take patience from the hosts to get an opening. Jordan Jones is the key creative spark in attack, his pace and direct running may be what’s needed to open up the defence. If he can get by his man often enough and drag some players out of position then Kyle Lafferty may be able to take advantage. The Rangers striker is the bookies favourite to get on the scoresheet at 2.88 anytime.
It’ll most likely be a game won by a single goal, 1-0 Northern Ireland could have some legs at a price of 4.5.
Under 2.5 goals @ 1.4
Kyle Lafferty to score first @ 5.5
Northern Ireland to win @ 1.62