Northern Ireland v Switzerland Predictions, Betting Tips and Previews

Michael O'Neill Northern Ireland

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Windsor Park - World Cup Play-Off

It doesn’t get much bigger than this for Northern Ireland, as Michael O’Neill’s side host Switzerland in the first leg of their World Cup play-off.

Past Meetings

This will be the fifth time that the two countries have played each other, and the first meeting since 2004. That friendly ended in a 0-0 draw, while Northern Ireland won a friendly 1-0 in 1998. The only previous competitive fixtures between the sides came back in 1964, with each side winning their home fixture in qualifying for the 1966 World Cup.

Team News

Hearts veteran Aaron Hughes is on the verge of becoming the most-capped British defender of all time, but he’s a doubt for the first leg of the play-off as he regains his fitness. Paddy McNair makes his return to international fold after recovering from knee surgery, while Nottingham Forest forward Jamie Ward is in the same boat.

There are plenty of familiar Premier League faces in the Switzerland squad, although former Arsenal defender Johan Djourou and ex-West Ham man Valon Behrami are expected to miss out. Boss Vladimir Petkovic will be able to call on the services of current Gunner Granit Xhaka and Stoke forward Xherdan Shaqiri, who will pose a serious goal threat for the visitors.

Northern Ireland v Switzerland Preview and Predictions

Both of these countries come into this play-off on the back of excellent qualifying campaigns. It’s all or nothing for Northern Ireland and Switzerland, although the first leg could be quite a cautious affair with few goals. Don’t be surprised to see the visitors sit back and invite the pressure, especially in the first half, as they look to nick a goal or two.

After finishing second in Group C to world champions Germany, Northern Ireland must now face the side currently ranked number 11 in the world for a spot at next summer’s World Cup. With the second leg coming up on Sunday, the Green and White Army need a positive result to take to Basle with them. O’Neill’s side start the game as underdogs with the bookmakers though, priced at 9/2 in the betting.

Switzerland won every single one of their qualifying games, until Portugal pipped them at the post by beating them in the final fixture. The Swiss players may feel a little hard done by after such a good campaign, but they must put this behind them and concentrate on this double-header. The visitors are available at 7/5, while if you think the first leg will end in a draw then it’s 29/10.

Recommended Bets

Second half to be highest scoring at 13/10

The odds are in favour of a cagey first half in this one, as both teams try to avoid conceding the advantage in the tie early on.

One team only to score at 23/20

With so much riding on this play-off, neither side will want to commit too much with another leg to play, so this game could be decided by the odd goal.