Northern Ireland v Italy: Italians to do enough in Belfast

Italy travel to Northern Ireland knowing that they almost certainly need to win to qualify automatically for Qatar 2022, but Paul Robinson expects them to do so.

Positives and negatives for Norn

Northern Ireland edged out Lithuania on Friday, but that isn't exactly much to shout about, as the Eastern Europeans are bottom of the group with three points from eight outings.

It was always a big ask for Ian Baraclough's side to qualify from Group B, given that Italy and Switzerland were drawn with them. Their performance hasn't been too bad - two wins, two draws and three defeats - but the team are at a bit of a crossroads.

Baraclough has opted for a 5-3-2 formation, with Ali McCann and Josh Magennis leading the line. Jonny Evans is back from injury, and he will win his 92nd cap on Monday night. The Leicester defender has been a big miss for large parts of this qualifying campaign, but the Irish are still set to finish in third, which isn't too bad a result.

Italians rueing penalty miss

Jorginho's last minute penalty miss not only cost Italy two vital points on Friday, it also cost me a 7/1 Daily Acca winner.

That leaves their position as Group C leaders in a precarious state, as Switzerland have the same amount of points as them, with just a two goal worse goal difference, and the Swiss have a slightly easier fixture, which is at home.

Roberto Mancini's men simply can't afford to rest on their laurels here, but the manager isn't helped by injuries to Ciro Immobile, Giorgio Chiellini and Marco Veratti, while Andrea Belotti isn't match-sharp, or in form.

In better news, Federico Chiesa continues to go from strength to strength, and he is capable of putting in match-winning performances.

Take the Half Time/Full Time Approach

The Italians are an incredibly short price to win at Windsor Park, but given the situation in the group, the 1.28 on the Betfair Exchange is pretty fair.

A draw for Northern Ireland would be a very good result to finish their qualifying campaign, but the 6.2 on offer isn't really tempting. The 15.5 for a home victory isn't big enough either.

Clearly I am not going to recommend a bet at odds of around 1/4, but there are other angles available.

In the Half Time/Full Time market the visitors are available to back at 1.86 to be winning at the break and at the final whistle, and I think that's a decent price.

Goal betting a minefield

The Goal markets are a little trickier to weigh up, as a lot depends on how things are going in Lucerne.

Assuming both Italy and Switzerland win, the Swiss need to overhaul a two goal poorer goal difference, but if they do manage to level it up, they will likely progress on the away goals scored tie-breaker - assuming that overall goals scored is the same.

Over 2.5 Goals is the favourite at 1.74 for this match in Belfast, with the Under available to back at 2.28.

I would say that those prices are about right, and given all of the possible permutations, it's definitely a no-bet market for me.

Bet Builder

A small Bet Builder in this game for me, with the combined odds being 7.81. It is Italy to win, Over 0.5 First Half Goals, Federico Chiesa to score anytime and Leonardo Bonucci to have 1+ Shot on Target.

For that last selection, I am banking on the Italians having lots of the ball and plenty of corners - a situation in which the Juventus defender has proved dangerous from.

Key Opta Stat

Italy haven't conceded a single goal in any of their last eight away games in all competitions (W6 D2), facing 64 shots and 19 on target, with an xG against of 4.7 in these games.

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