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NI needs to take care of business – Baraclough

NI needs to take care of business - Baraclough
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Ian Baraclough
Baraclough took over as head of Northern Ireland in the summer of 2020
Venue: Georgios Kamaras Stadium, Athens Date: Tuesday, September 27th Kicking off: 19:45 CET
Cover: Listen to BBC Radio Ulster, live text commentary and reports on the BBC Sport website, highlights on BBC One Northern Ireland on Tuesdays at 23:10 BST

Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough has urged his players to “take care of business” against Greece and not let the threat of relegation to the Nations League sway them.

His side go into the final game of Group C2 third in Athens on Tuesday after ending a 14-game winless streak in the competition in Belfast on Saturday.

NI, who have suffered disrupted pre-season, must match at least Cyprus’s score against Kosovo on the same night to avoid a relegation play-off.

“When we first met for the international window, it was [relegation] was something I talked about, making sure we’re still in the same group that we’re in at the end of those 10 days,” Baraclough said.

“It could be the last time we are together before the EURO. The result in Cyprus [a 1-0 win over Greece on Saturday] may have come as a surprise to some but I know this team can play, they’re a build-up nation here too.

“It would have been a disappointment for Greece and means we have to come here and take care of business. It’s in our hands and if we walk away with a win then the job is done in that regard.”

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Jonny Evans will earn his 100th cap against Greece

Saturday’s last-minute 2-1 win over Kosovo at Windsor Park came after Kyle Lafferty and Conor McMenamin were both removed from the squad after videos of them surfaced on social media.

In a somewhat chaotic 24 hours it emerged that McMenamin had traveled to Greece with the squad on Sunday and on Monday it was confirmed he could play in Tuesday’s game after the Football Association of Ireland’s Disciplinary Committee reviewed its decision.

Greece won a close game 1-0 when the sides met in the group’s opening game at Windsor Park in June and Baraclough expects another close game.

“Molding [Poyet, the Greece manager] was very flattering when we played them in the summer, it was a very close game,” continued the former NI U21 coach.

“We both admitted it was a game with very few chances and they took one that was enough for them.

“I expect it to be a very close affair on Tuesday night as well and hopefully we can come away with a 1-0 win and I will shake hands with Gus. Tight games sometimes need to be won with a magic moment, hopefully that’s from someone wearing our shirt.”

And given that the outcome of the Kosovo-Cyprus game could affect Northern Ireland’s future in the third division of the Nations League, will Baraclough keep that result in mind throughout the ongoing games?

“No, we will concentrate fully on our game,” he said.

“If we take care of business, it doesn’t matter what happens in the other game. It was certainly a great result for Cyprus and I’m sure Greece will try to make sure they get it right.”

Poyet promises Greece will be ready to fight

Greece coach Poyet, whose side have already secured group victory and promotion to League B, stressed his side will remain ready to face Northern Ireland at the Georgios Kamaras Stadium.

“It’s very clear Northern Ireland’s strengths and we expect nothing less,” said the former Chelsea and Tottenham midfielder.

“We know the system they are going to play, the pressure they want to put on us by pushing forward and trying to win every challenge. I would be very surprised if that changed.”

“We can say nicely that we will be ready for a fight. We know that if we want to get a result, we have to fight.”


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