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Preview: Northern Ireland vs. Slovakia - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Thursday's Euro 2020 playoff between Northern Ireland and Slovakia, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Northern Ireland and Slovakia do battle in Belfast on Thursday evening with a place at Euro 2020 the prize for the winner.

These two nations earned their place in the final playoff tie with dramatic penalty-shootout victories over Bosnia-Herzegovina and Republic of Ireland respectively.

Match preview

Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough pictured on September 7, 2020© Reuters

When two teams have failed to win any of their five previous matches in normal time, you would not expect to find them on the brink of an appearance at a major tournament.

However, that has occurred with both Northern Ireland and Slovakia, who meet later this week having not recorded a victory since the closing months of 2019.

Ian Baraclough watched his side progress through to the final by recording a 4-3 penalty-shootout win over Bosnia-Herzegovina after initially holding their hosts to a 1-1 draw.

As for Slovakia, they posted a goalless draw with Republic of Ireland before holding their nerve during the same circumstances, converting each of their four spot kicks.

Nevertheless, it did not stop their football association from parting ways with Pavel Hapal after defeats followed against Scotland and Israel in the UEFA Nations League.

That has resulted in Stefan Tarkovic being placed in caretaker charge, with the 47-year-old aware that victory on Thursday could land him a contract through to next summer.

Although Slovakia will quickly have to adapt to fresh methods introduced by their new boss, Northern Ireland find themselves still doing the same under Baraclough.

While it is recognised that the Green and White army won against the odds against Bosnia-Herzegovina, they only have a late draw against Romania to show from their other four matches since the start of September.

These two nations last met in a friendly ahead of Euro 2016 with a goalless draw being played out in Trnava.

Northern Ireland form (all competitions): LDLDLL

Slovakia form (all competitions): WLDDLL

Team News

Jonny Evans pictured for Northern Ireland in March 2019© Reuters

Jonny Evans is expected to be passed fit for Northern Ireland despite suffering a knock to his back at the weekend.

Corry Evans is missing because of a hamstring injury, leaving Gavin Whyte in line to play on the right-hand-side of midfield.

Markovic has handed a recall to Vladimir Weiss, who returns to the international stage having not represented his country since 2018.

The playmaker could be brought in as a replacement for Jaroslav Mihalik, while Milan Skriniar is expected to feature in defence after missing the game against Republic of Ireland.

Northern Ireland possible starting lineup:
Peacock-Farrell; Dallas, Cathcart, Evans, Lewis; Whyte, Davis, Saville, McGinn; McNair; Magennis

Slovakia possible starting lineup:
Rodak; Pekarik, Skriniar, Valjent, Mazan; Kucka, Hrosovsky, Hamsik; Rusnak, Duda, Weiss

SM words green background

We say: Northern Ireland 1-2 Slovakia

If their matches at the last-four stage are anything to go by, this has all the makings of a tense affair. Both teams will need to show more quality in the final third than normal, and we feel that the visitors are better equipped to provide that extra cutting edge.

Top betting tip

Our expert tipster partners at are predicting under 2.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Under 2.5:data


Who will reach Euro 2020?

Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
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