Lithuania v Northern Ireland
Thursday 2 September, 19:45
Live on Sky Sports
A new start for Lithuania
Lithuania have played two and lost two in Group C thus far, having been beaten 1-0 in Switzerland and then 0-2 at home by Italy.
Since those qualifiers they have played three more matches, and they lost all three of those too – against Estonia, Latvia and Spain.
Half a dozen straight defeats was enough for Valdas Urbonas to depart as manager, with former Hearts boss, Valdas Ivanauskas, coming in to replace him.
Ivanauskas will be hoping that he can get the team back to the kind of form that at least saw them taken eight points from their Nations League League C Group in 2020.
Depleted Northern Ireland need points on the board
Ian Baraclough’s side haven’t started much better in their pursuit of World Cup Qualification. They lost 2-0 in Italy before earning a point in a 0-0 draw with Bulgaria.
Since those games, Baraclough has at least steered his team to their first win inside of 90 minutes under his stewardship. They beat Malta 3-0, but could only follow it up with a 1-0 defeat in the Ukraine.
The manager has spoken of having to make some big decisions ahead of this clash. He is without Jonny Evans, Corry Evans and Josh Magennis, and Steven Davis and Stuart Dallas missed training on Tuesday.
The visitors are the favourites on the Betfair Exchange, with their back price hovering around the 1.875/6 mark. It’s 5.24/1 for the home win and 3.613/5 for the game to end all square.
A draw is no good to either side given the starts that they have made, and assuming Italy top the group, they both need to rack up a few wins to give the Swiss something to think about for second.
Lithuania’s recent form is really poor, and I am not sure that even a new manager boost will be enough to see them take the victory here.
I have reservations about the Irish though, and while I would have them as favourites, 1.875/6 does look a touch short given their injuries.
On that basis, I can’t recommend a bet in the match-odds market.
Goals could be the play in Vilnius, as Over 2.5 at 2.6213/8 is worth a second look.
Neither nation are known for their goal-output, but as previously mentioned, this really is a must-win for both of them.
The Lithuanians will be desperate to start their new era with a victory – and the players will want to impress the new manager – while Northern Ireland will still harbour hopes of securing a Play-off place.
Under 2.5 Goals is currently the favourite at 1.584/7, but Overs is definitely worth chancing, at the prices.
My Bet Builder for this fixture is focusing on goals, as I am going to combine Over 2.5, both teams to score and a goal in both halves, which if you add to Shayne Lavery to score any time, you get a price of 5.77.
The Blackpool striker has started his Blackpool career in style, scoring four goals in just seven appearances for the Seasiders.