Baraclough urges focus from Northern Ireland

Baraclough urges focus from Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough says his players need to ignore “outside noise” as they prepare to face Greece (Match Betting – Northern Ireland 5/2, draw 19/10, Greece 13/10) in their opening Nations League match of the campaign.

It is the first time they have played in the competition since suffering relegation to League C following a dismal showing last time out.

Northern Ireland only managed to get two points from six games in their previous campaign and now they are preparing to try and get back to winning ways a level down.

Euro 2004 winners Greece are their first opponents with challenges against Kosovo and Cyprus also to come.

Baraclough accepts that there will be more expectations placed upon his side but says they must approach the games fully focused on the job at hand.

“We’ve all got to deal with that,” he said when asked about added pressure.

“There are always going to be games where there are outside influences and noise that goes on, people will say you are favourites for games and you should be winning games.

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Elsewhere in the Nations League, there is a clash of the titans in League A as Spain take on Portugal (Match betting – Spain 11/10, draw 23/10, Portugal 13/5) in Group A2.

Spain were beaten finalists in the competition last time out and they face the Euro 2016 winners.

Each of their last four meetings have ended all square, with Portugal’s 4-0 win back in 2010 the last time there was a winner after 90 minutes.

In the same group, the Czech Republic prepare to host Switzerland (Match betting – Czech Republic 21/10, draw 9/4, Switzerland 13/10) with both sides looking for a win before they face, on paper, tougher fixtures.

There is also action from Group B4 as World Cup-bound Serbia host Erling Haaland’s Norway (Match betting – Serbia EVS, draw 12/5, Norway 11/4).

Meanwhile, Slovenia take on Sweden (Match betting – Slovenia 5/2, draw 21/10, Sweden 6/5) at home.

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Author: Lucille White