Czech Republic v Northern Ireland – Generali Arena at 19:45 live on Sky Sports 2
On Sunday the Czech Republic take on Northern Ireland as both teams kick off their qualifying campaigns for the 2018 World Cup.
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The Czech Republic are an interesting side that are yet to reach there full potential, despite having some decent players. Inconsistency seems to plague the Czechs and this was again evident at Euro 2016 as after a successful qualifying campaign, they failed to continue their good form in the tournament itself .
The Czechs had an impressive qualifying campaign (W7 D1 L2) which saw them top the group ahead of Iceland, Turkey and the Netherlands, although at the tournament they failed to win any of their 3 group matches against Turkey, Croatia and Spain.
You could say that the Czech Republic had a tougher group than most, but even so they would have been disappointed not to make it through the group stages.
On Wednesday however they seemed to have put the past behind them as they beat Armeria 3-0 in a friendly, with goals scored by Kopic, Kadlec and Krejčí.
The Czechs have also taken wins over the Netherlands and Russia in recent friendlies and so it is down to new boss Karel Jarolim to get the team to gel in order to find greater consistency.
Northern Ireland made it into the last 16 at Euro 2016, with a notable 2-0 victory over Ukraine in the group stages. Michael O’Neill’s men came unstuck when they faced Wales in the Round of 16 however, marginally losing 1-0 as a result of a McAuley own goal.
There is no doubt that there is talent in this Northern Irish side and prior to the Euros they were on a 12 game unbeaten run across all competitions. Kyle Lafferty will be the main man up top on Sunday as fellow striker Will Grigg will miss the match due to his partner having a baby on the way.
Another blow for Northern Ireland is the absence of Craig Cathcart, who is currently nursing a groin strain.
The Czech Republic and Northern Ireland most recently faced each other in 2010 World Cup qualifying and both games ended in a 0-0 draw.
As for the result of this clash, I can also see a similar result occurring and as Northern Ireland looked impressive in the build up to and at Euro 2016, they look value at +0.75 on the Asian Handicap betting market.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Northern Ireland +0.75 @ 1.88 with Bet365
Prices correct at time of writing.