Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill hoping his team can beat Romania

Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill hoping his team can beat Romania

ALL roads lead to Windsor Park tonight as Northern Ireland head go head-to-head in their top-of-the-table clash with Romania.

A 10,000 strong ‘Green and White Army’ will pack the stands in the south Belfast ground confident that Michael O’Neill’s men can capitalise on home advantage and reach their first European Championship finals.

Expect the stands to be rocking and roaring come 7.45 pm – and hopefully this time the new structures in place will withstand the bouncing and not suffer any structural defects.

O’Neill’s men will make great progress towards boarding the plane to France next summer if they beat Group F leaders Romania this evening.

A draw would also be viewed as a positive result for O’Neill side, with it keeping their destiny in their own hands.

Romania won the first fixture between the sides 2-0 in Bucharest and they are unbeaten in the group having conceded just once in their last five matches.

Kyle Lafferty will be tasked with causing the Romanian defence plenty of problems, in what is arguably Northern Ireland’s biggest game in their recent history.

His two goals against Finland in their last Euro qualifier gave his country a real cutting edge up front.

Northern Ireland will certainly be looking to improve on their low key 1-1 draw with Qatar in Crewe last month.

Goalkeeper Roy Carroll has been ruled out of the match with abdominal pain. Hamilton shot-stopper Michael McGovern, who has just three friendly caps to his name, is in line to deputise.

Otherwise O’Neill has a full squad to pick from.

Romania forward Claudiu Keșerü says he is “100 per cent fit” for the game at Windsor Park, easing the injury crisis faced by Anghel Iordănescu’s men.

“At this moment I cannot even name a probable starting XI because of our problems,” he said. “Since my first press conference, other problems have arisen. Răzvan Raț and Lucian Sănmărtean have returned from treatment in Belgrade, but it’s impossible to say what their situation is.

“Both have started to train, but separately, according to a schedule decided by our doctor. Yesterday, Florin Andone picked up an ankle injury, while Keșerü also started to train, but he had to take it easy.”

Match facts

Northern Ireland have scored at least twice each of their last three home games.

Romania have not appeared at a major championship since 2008 but they are unbeaten in their last nine matches in all competitions.

Kyle Lafferty has five goals in five games so far in qualifying – only England’s Danny Welbeck (6) has scored more.

Group F leaders Romania are 6/4 to go to Belfast and win, making them 1/3 favourites to top the table by the end of the campaign.

Northern Ireland are 21/10 to win on the night, and 4/1 to go on and win the group.


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