World Cup qualifier preview; Northern Ireland vs Bulgaria – Narrow win Correct Score Predicted

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2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier preview: UEFA Group C – Northern Ireland vs Bulgaria – Windsor Park, Belfast – Wednesday, 31 March 2021, 19:45 hrs. BST

Northern Ireland will host Bulgaria at Windsor Park, Belfast, on Wednesday for a Group C clash of the WC 2022 World Cup Qualifier. Both nations will be seeking to record their first wins, with Bulgaria having already lost their Group C games at home to Italy and Switzerland.

The hosts lost the only game they have played in to Italy, 2-0 away in Parma. Both teams, currently placed at 4th and 5th in the group will need three points from Wednesday's game to stay in the race for qualification.

Northern Ireland form guide: L-L-D-L-L

Bulgaria form guide: L-L-D-L-W

Northern Ireland team news

Newcastle defender Jamal Lewis is expected to return from a groin injury and start in a left-back role.

Manager Ian Baraclough will have to do without striker Conor Washington owing to injury and winger Jordan Jones who pulled out just before the squad was announced.

21-year-old center-back Daniel Ballard who impressed in Northern Ireland's defeat to USA in an international friendly, is likely to keep his place in the back three, alongside Craig Cathcart and Jonny Evans. Striker Kyle Lafferty could come in at the expense of one of the duo of Josh Magennis and Gavin Whyte.

Bulgaria team news

Experienced center-back Vasil Bozhikov and Brazil-born wing-back Cicinho should once again start in new Bulgaria boss Yasen Petrov's favoured 3-5-2 formation on Wednesday. Bologna center-back Valentin Antov who started against Italy but was benched against Switzerland, will hope to keep his spot among the back three alongside Dimitar Dimov and Petar Zanev.

Striker Andrey Galabinov of Serie A club Spezia should keep his place up front alongside Kiril Despodov who scored in the 1-3 defeat to the Swiss.

Northern Ireland Predicted XI in a 4-1-3-2 formation: Bailey Peacock-Farrell (GK); Stuart Dallas, Johnny Evans, Craig Cathcart, Michael Smith; Patrick McNair; Alistair McCann, Steven Davis, Corry Evans; Josh Magennis, Kyle Lafferty

Bulgaria Predicted XI in a 3-5-2 formation: Plamen Iliev (GK); Dimitar Dimov, Valentin Antov, Petar Zanev; Cicinho, Georgi Kostandinov, Ivalyo Chochev, Kristiyan Malinov, Momchil Tsvetanov; Kiril Despodov, Andrey Galabinov

Of the 8 times these two sides have met so far, the Bulgarians have emerged victorious in four and Northern Ireland in two.

Their last meeting at the international level was in a friendly in 2008 when the Green and White Army lost 0-1 courtesy an own goal from Jonny Evans.

What is worrying for the hosts going into the Wednesday game is the fact they are without a win in regular time since their 3-2 friendly win over Czech Republic in October 2019. Baraclough is yet to win inside 90 minutes during his first 10 games as manager – his only success so far being a penalty shoot-out triumph against Bosnia in the playoffs for this summer's Euros.

Northern Ireland's main problem will be to find finishing quality in the final third, but the given the desperate situation they are in, they may just come up one better than the Bulgarians at Windsor Park.

Bet365 odds:

Bet365 odds are subject to change and were correct as of 29/03/2021.

Northern Ireland to win: 10/11

Bulgaria to win: 18/5

Draw: 21/10

Correct score Odds

Northern Ireland 1-0: 9/2 (predicted score line)

Draw 1-1: 5/1 (probable score line)

Draw 0-0: 11/2

Northern Ireland 2-0: 7/1

Northern Ireland 2-1: 8/1

Bulgaria 1-0: 9/1

Bulgaria 2-1: 16/1

Northern Ireland 3-0: 14/1

Draw 2-2: 18/1

Northern Ireland 3-1: 18/1

Bulgaria 2-0: 20/1

Northern Ireland 3-2: 40/1

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