World Cup Qualifiers: Northern Ireland - Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan are unbeaten through three group games and have yet to concede, keeping clean sheets against both Norway and the Czech Republic and holding a surprise second place in Group C behind big favourites Germany. It is only the second playoff spot that is realistically up for grabs and the visitors would take a very firm grip on it, were they to win in Belfast. Northern Ireland are not exactly full of goals and the absences of Stuart Dallas and Jamie Ward lessen their offensive threat and without Ward, the Irish are an incredibly bad 1-9-16 in the last six years, the win coming over the Faroe Islands and that sequence included a 1-1 home draw with Azerbaijan. They have been starting with Josh Magennis up front, with Ward in the secondary role in recent games, Magennis had just 28 goals in the SPL in five seasons and is hardly banging them in regularly for Charlton Athletic this season in the third tier of English football (a goal every 400 minutes) and it is easy to make a case for Azerbaijan keeping the Irish fairly quiet. A goal for the visitors should be enough for a point (aside from against San Marino the Irish have only scored more than one in 2 of 12 starts) and they might not even need that and this game feels like it has been priced wrongly and based on what was perceived as a strong Euro showing for Northerm Ireland, where they actually lost 3/4 and they have failed to score in six of their last eight starts. Azerbaijan have two teams in the group stages of the Europa League, with domestic champions Qarabag, who supply eight of this squad, in good position to qualify and this is clearly a footballing nation on the rise.

Azerbaijan +0.5 ball 2.21 asian line/Sportmarket

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