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Big match breakdown: Switzerland v Northern Ireland

Swiss hold first-leg advantage

The first-leg of Northern Ireland’s World Cup play-off clash versus Switzerland proved to be a controversial affair.

The Swiss grabbed 1-0 win in Belfast, courtesy of a very suspect penalty decision from the referee.

But the decision only served to overlook the fact that the visitors dominated the game, and Michael O’Neill’s side have an almighty task ahead of them.

So ahead of the crucial second-leg, the Coral News Team brings the big match breakdown…

The form

Worryingly for the Green and White Army, losing on Thursday made it three defeats on the spin.

They’ve failed to score in all of those games too.

But Northern Ireland have been solid on their travels, losing only four of their last 12. And they have produced the goods before, winning away at Ukraine, Greece and Hungary since 2014.

Switzerland aren’t often beaten at home however. Since a shock 2-1 loss to Luxembourg in 2008, only one side has gone to Basel in a competitive game and won – England.

The likely XIs

Northern Ireland must come out and play in this second leg, but that doesn’t mean O’Neill will make too many changes.

It would be silly to give the tie away early on, so it should be a similar XI to Thursday night.

That means Kyle Lafferty will provide a target up front, aided by Josh Magennis and Stuart Dallas.

It’s a similar story for the hosts, so Haris Seferovic should be starting, with Xherdan Shaqiri playing behind on the right.

Northern Ireland vs Away team - Football tactics and formations

Key battles

Switzerland really did dominate in Belfast, holding 65% of possession and producing 16 shots to Northern Ireland’s five.

Their pace and dynamism in the midfield is the main reason why, and that should be the case again.

Granit Xhaka’s passing ability is of the highest calibre, while Northern Ireland will again have to handle Shaqiri and Steven Zuber.

O’Neill’s men must put pressure on the Swiss defence, and if that means lumping it up to Lafferty then so be it. At 6ft 4in the striker is a handful for any centre-half. But the likes of Magennis, Oliver Norwood and Steven Davis must get up to support him.

Match betting

The odds only serve to emphasise Switzerland’s strong position.

They’re a comfortable 4/9 to win the game, with Northern Ireland out at 13/2. The draw is 11/4, but of course, that now solely favours the Swiss.

It’s the qualification odds which really show the scale of Norn Iron’s task. Switzerland are a mighty 1/14 to be in Russia next summer, with O’Neill’s men 15/2.

Big match previews, betting tips and transfer news – Coral has it all.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing