Northern Ireland v Czech Republic
Monday 4 September, 19:45
Live on Sky Sports Mix

Only a point required
Following Friday's 3-0 win in San Marino, along with Germany's 2-1 victory in the Czech Republic, Northern Ireland need only a point here to guarantee second place in Group C. Topping the group always looked a big ask and Germany remain five points ahead, but that prospect is still not out of reach however unlikely.
The goals only started to flow against San Marino after forward Kyle Lafferty was replaced by Shane Ferguson and Josh Magennis moved into a central striking role, with Magennis scoring the first two, and Michael O'Neill has the option of starting with that line-up here.

Goals needed - and fast
The reverse fixture ended 0-0 and the Czech Republic have to find a way through the Northern Ireland rearguard this time if they are to retain any hope of qualification.
That will be difficult, with the hosts having conceded only away to Germany in their seven group matches so far.
The Czechs are not the team they once were and are now ranked 40th in the world by Fifa, with Northern Ireland well ahead of them in 23rd. Coming here after their deflating defeat against Germany, where they conceded in the 88th minute having looked to have rescued a point, will not be easy.
Pavel Kaderabek, Borek Dockal and Ladislav Krejci - three regulars left out of the starting line-up against Germany with the threat of suspension hanging over them - are set to return here. The Czechs played well enough on Friday night to suggest that a stronger team here can cause problems.

Hosts could sit tight
Northern Ireland have no pressing need to go for three points in order to make sure of second place and potentially that gives the match a strange quality, if the hosts are content to sit tight.
O'Neill has a W7 D4 L2 record in home qualifiers (the defeats were by Israel and Portugal) and it has grown stronger, with no loss in their last eight (six of them wins).
If they could be assured of going for the win from the start, odds of 2.80 might not look bad but at least their recent home record gives them a solid look on draw no bet at 1.96.
But don't ignore the Czechs' good record on the road, which has seen them lose only five away qualifiers out of 22 since their last visit here nine years ago (a 0-0 in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup).
The question mark is whether anything like the old quality is still there in a younger squad and whether the visitors have the self-belief to perform at their best here after a disappointing campaign under Karel Jarolim, who took over last summer after the Euro Championships.
Draws have cost Jarolim's side in this campaign, and they started badly with three blanks, but it is worth noting that their record not including the games against Germany is W2 D3 L0 with a goal difference of 9-2.
For all their qualities, Northern Ireland have won only four out of 20 competitive matches under O'Neill when they have conceded and an away goal would make the Czechs very competitive. The visitors look worth chancing at 1.95 on draw no bet.

Under 2.5 goals strongly favoured
With the reverse fixture having finished goalless, under 2.5 goals is short at 1.42. The only matches for the Czech Republic where the goals have gone over that mark were at the two extremities of the group (Germany and San Marino) and nine of Northern Ireland's last 12 competitive games have had under 2.5 goals (the exceptions being big wins over San Marino, twice, and Azerbaijan).
If the hosts are risk-averse, as seems likely, the onus will be on the Czechs to open up the game.

Recommended Bet
Back Czech Republic on Draw No Bet at 1.95

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