Sports Mole preview Saturday’s Nations League clash between Northern Ireland and Kosovo, including predictions, team news and possible line-ups.
North Ireland be the host of Kosovo Saturday evening knowing that three points could prove sufficient to avoid relegation to Ligue D from UEFA Nations League.
With Greece already granted promotion, Kosovo are in search of the win that would secure second place in Group 2 of League C.
When Northern Ireland were drawn alongside Greece, Kosovo and Cyprus, it was sincerely expected that they could win the group enjoying their home games and fighting hard in their matches. displacements.
However, only two points and four goals came from their opening quartet, a failure to beat Cyprus in either game leaving Ian Barraclough under pressure in the canoe.
At a time when Cyprus have yet to face the same opponents, Northern Ireland will expect to retain their third division status, but they could make it easier with maximum points on Saturday.
That said, the Green and White Army have won just one game at Windsor Park in three years, with that success coming in a World Cup qualifier draw against Lithuania at the end of 2021.
Last time out, they found themselves trailing 2-0 in Cyprus with 20 minutes to go, only to Paddy McNair and Jonny Evans to net goals that indicate this group of players are still playing for their coach.
Although Kosovo may not necessarily be playing with the same quality as in 2018 and 2019, they are still capable of causing problems for any team at this level of international football.
That’s how it turned out with wins over the bottom two nations in that group, only suffering defeats against runaway leaders Greece by scores of 1-0 and 2-0 respectively.
At a time when Northern Ireland have struggled at home, Kosovo have been hardly productive on the road, with their most notable away success in three years coming in Georgia in 2021.
However, Alain Giresseare the fringe favorites for this game, helped by their 3-2 success in the second leg in June.
Northern Ireland Nations League Form:
Form of Northern Ireland (all competitions):
Kosovo League of Nations form:
Form of Kosovo (all competitions):
Baraclough could make significant changes to his Northern Ireland XI with Trevor Carson, Brodie Spencer and Daniel Ballard all unavailable after the start of the last match.
Goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell will figure between the sticks, Conor Bradley is in line to start at right-back, and Paddy McNair could drop back into the middle of defence.
Corry Evans and George Saville could start in central midfield, with Dion Charles potentially falling on the substitutes’ bench.
With Valon Berisha unavailable for Kosovo, the all-rounder Florent Hadergjonaj could take his place in midfield to add experience.
The former Huddersfield Town man is also capable of filling in in a wide area, but squad changes are likely to be kept to a minimum.
Possible starting line-up for Northern Ireland:
Carson; Spencer, McNair, Evans, Brown; Evans, Saville; Lavery, Davis, McMenamin; Magennis
Possible starting line-up from Kosovo:
Muric; Rrudhani, Rrahmani, Kryeziu, Aliti; Domgjoni, Hadergjonaj; Rashica, Muslija, Bytyqi; Muriqi
We say: Northern Ireland 1-1 Kosovo
Given their lack of wins of late, it’s hard to back Northern Ireland with any level of confidence. However, under pressure to avoid defeat, we believe Baraclough’s men will do just enough to earn a hard-fought share of the spoils against opponents who would also accept a point at Windsor Park.
For a data analysis of the most likely outcomes, scores and more for this match, please click here.