Northern Ireland Norway Wed 19:45
With four losses in their last four outings, Northern Ireland will be keen to get a win back on the board this week when they’ll welcome Norway to Windsor Park at unfancied long odds with Ladbrokes tonight.
Michael O’Neill’s side are currently going through a state of transition after the departure of Nigel Worthington, who stepped down as Head Coach after a miserable Euro 2012 qualifying campaign.
The Green and White Army’s began their assault on qualifying Group C with high hopes, claiming a win over Slovenia and earning draw a stalemate against Italy.
However, things quickly took a turn for the worse after being held away against Faroe Islands and the Irishmen went on to lose five of their next seven games, failing to make their way into the finals of the tournament.
To make things worse, Craig Cathcart and Warren Feeney have recently pulled out of the match against Norway with hamstring and calf problems, respectively.
Fulham defender Aaron Hughes, who recently made a return to the International fold after previously announcing his retirement should return to the side, while the ever reliable David Healy, who has the impressive record of 35 goals in 89 games will partner Burnley’s Martin Paterson, who will feature for the first time since a World Cup qualifier in September, 2009.
Egil Olsen’s side have had a more successful past six months and were actually unfortunate to qualify for Euro 2012, just being pipped to a second placed finish in Group H by Portugal.
The Drillos won five of their eight qualifying Group games but failed to win by any big enough margins capable of building the goal difference necessary for progression.
The only teams whom Norway faltered against were eventual first and second place qualifiers Denmark and Portugal, giving the Scandinavian outfit confidence heading into their friendly.
Norway aren’t expected to have any major injury concerns this week and will surely head into the match as favourites to win, with Blackburn midfielder Morten Gamst Pedersen likely to play down the left hand side, while defender Jon Arne Riise is only five caps away from leading the all time appearance list for Olsen’s side.