A low-scoring home win looks on the cards in Friday's World Cup qualifier.
Northern Ireland v Azerbaijan - Friday 19:45, Sky Sports 1
Northern Ireland have made a decent start to qualification and will be expected to record a second home victory here. They seem to have lost none of the defensive prowess that saw them qualify for Euro 2016, with their only two goals conceded so far in Group C against leaders Germany. At least one team has failed to score in each of their last 10 matches, with Michael O’Neil’s side keeping a clean sheet in their last four at home.
Azerbaijan have made a fantastic start to qualification, unbeaten in three and with two victories to their name already, including an unexpected home win against Norway. Like Northern Ireland, their success has depended upon a tight rearguard, registering a clean sheet in all three of these games. In their last seven games, there have been fewer than three goals on six occasions and less than two in five. For Northern Ireland, there have been fewer than three goals in 11 of their last 13, with no more than two in seven of these. Having won seven of their last nine at home (drawing the other two), we think Northern Ireland/Under 2.5 goals looks attractive at 3.0.
Northern Ireland showed in their 4-0 win at home to San Marino that they’re capable of controlling the match against a minnow nation. Admittedly generally against sides weaker than the men in green, Azerbaijan have conceded just six in their last eight, so we think any Northern Ireland victory is likely to be a low scoring one.