Best Odds: 2/1
UEFA Euro 2021 is right around the corner but before all of that kicks off this summer, we have the start of 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying to contend with across the continent of Europe. There are plenty of nations out there who will really fancy their chances at reaching Qatar next year whereas others just want to try and put forward a good account of themselves. Today, we’ll look at a game between two teams who are probably in the latter of the two categories – Northern Ireland and Bulgaria.
Northern Ireland have gone from gritty qualifiers for the Euros to a team who just can’t string together a strong passage of play, let alone a few goals. Some will trace this back to their failure to qualify for this year’s Euros through the playoffs but in reality, this decline has been a long time coming for a team that used to be so respectable. They need to work on bringing through some exciting new youngsters because otherwise they could be destined for irrelevancy as the years go on.
Lewis is set to return from injury with Washington and Jones still being out of action. Ballard impressed in the defeat to the Americans and could get the nod to feature again here.
Bulgaria have had their moment in the sunshine in the past through big international tournaments but in the present day, there are still some lingering question marks about what exactly they’re capable of. They don’t really have many players within their ranks who can cause opponents major damage, and if they don’t start to bring them through soon, they’ll be cast aside as a nation who everyone should look at as beatable.
Antov is expected to play a role after featuring in a few games now with Zanev being kept on the bench. Elsewhere, Galabinov should be able to maintain his place up top with Despodov also being expected to play a role in a game that could be huge for their qualification hopes.
Factors to Consider
- Bulgaria have beaten Northern Ireland in their last three meetings.
- Northern Ireland have drawn one and lost five of their last six games.
- Bulgaria have won one, drawn one and lost four of their last six games.
- Northern Ireland have scored four goals and conceded 10 in their last six games.
- Bulgaria have scored five goals and conceded eight in their last six games.
There’s one word for what we’re expecting from this game – nothing. Sometimes you can go into an international fixture with all the expectations in the world and be let down, and we’re trying to approach this from the other side of the coin. We don’t know if it’s going to be a barnburner but we seriously doubt it, to the point where we’re willing to put money down on the idea that a 0-0 draw is very, very possible – so that’s what we’re predicting.
Best Odds: 2/1