Most recent competitive meeting:
This match will be the first-ever meeting between the teams.
- Northern Ireland have won 10 of their last 14 home matches losing only to Croatia, Switzerland and twice to Germany.
- The Northern Ireland defence has kept 8 clean sheets in their last 10 home victories.
- Bosnia failed to reach the World Cup in Russia as they finished behind Greece and Belgium in their qualification group.
- Bosnia have scored only 4 goals in their last 6
- Bosnia have lost only 2 of their previous 8 away matches.
Young Leeds United goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell has fully committed his international future to Michael O’Neill’s side and could make his first competitive start for his adopted country. Recent Rangers signing Gareth McAuley is lacking match fitness and could be replaced in the starting eleven by the in-form Watford centre-back Craig Cathcart. Jamal Lewis is expected to start at left back while George Saville will likely start in a three-man midfield. Probable Northern Ireland formation: 4-3-3
Bosnia named only four defenders in their panel, and all look set to start at Windsor Park on Saturday afternoon. Juventus midfielder Miralem Pjanic will undertake the playmaker role in the Bosnian team. Mo Besic who is currently on loan at Middlesbrough in the English Championship will anchor the centre of the midfield. The goalscoring burden for the away side will fall to Roma striker Edin Dzeko, who is likely to play up front on his own. Probable Bosnia formation: 4-3-3
Former Shamrock Rovers manager Michael O’Neill has worked wonders since taking the reigns as Northern Ireland manager in 2011. Qualification for Euro 2016 and a harsh one-nil aggregate loss to Switzerland in the 2018 World Cup playoffs have shown that O’Neill is a very astute international manager. Along with Iceland, Northern Ireland have achieved feats way above their normal performance expectations over the past four years.
Bosnia have failed to qualify for the past two international tournaments. Scoring goals have been the main problem of late for the Bosnians. Edin Dzeko is now 32 years old, and there is a massive expectation for him to get on the scoresheet in every game. Miralem Pjanic is the only other top-class player in the Bosnian squad, and he has so far failed to meet the levels of expectation thrust upon him from the Bosnian fans.
The defensive records of both sides over the past two campaigns have been extremely impressive. There have been under 2.5 goals scored in 4 of the previous 5 games featuring Bosnia. Windsor Park is an intimidating ground for visiting sides, so a Northern Ireland victory by a one-goal margin is the predicted result for this game.
Written by Rob Giles