Slovenia vs Northern IrelandEuro 2024, KO: 19:45 Sep 7, 2023, Stadion Stozice, Ljubljana
NORTHERN IRELAND are drinking in last chance saloon for Euro 2024 as they approach the first of their crucial away double-headers in Slovenia on Thursday.
Michael O'Neill's return to the hotseat has not quite been the dream the Irish fans were hoping for after he famously led them to Euro 2016 qualification.
He's been severely hampered by injuries to key players throughout the campaign – captain Steven Davis, Stuart Dallas and Corry Evans have all been missing and he lost strike Shayne Lavery and Dale Taylor to injuries last week too.
Luck also seems to have completely deserted Norn Iron this campaign and nothing showed that more than when Callum Marshall's 97th-minute strike was ruled out by VAR which robbed them of a draw in Denmark.
In fact, they have now lost to Finland, Denmark and Kazakhstan all to 1-0 defeats and another loss in Ljubljana would surely extinguish their slim qualification hopes with a trip to Astana next week too.
They are facing a Slovenia side that can blow hot and cold. They won in Kazakhstan against the surprise group high-fliers and held the Danes to a draw at home, but they also lost in Finland.
But Matjaz Kek – who is on his second spell in charge of his country – will have targeted this for three points.
How the bookies view it
Slovenia are favourites here and can be backed at 10/11 with 888Sport.
Recent head to heads
The nations have met five times and Northern Ireland lead the way 3-1 with one draw. There has only once been over one goal in the games.
Players to watch
Panathinaikos striker Andraz Sporar is Slovenia's joint top scorer in the squad with eight goals and the last one was against Denmark in their previous game. He is 12/5 to score anytime with William Hill.
Euro 2016 veteran Josh Magennis is back in the Northern Ireland squad and the Wigan Athletic striker is looking for his 11th international goal. He is 16/5 to score anytime with Coral.
Anything else catch the eye?
This is highly likely to be a tight, low-scoring encounter featuring two teams who traditionally don't score a lot of goals. Northern Ireland have failed to score in their last three games and Slovenia are not exactly awash with goals either.
The fact that both nations only managed to score two goals against international joke figures San Marino in this qualifying campaign tells its own story.
With Northern Ireland losing three games by a single goal, it's worth backing under 1.5 goals at 7/4 with William Hill.
Sadly for the visitors, these are the type of fixtures they have struggled in recently and they could well face another narrow loss – take Slovenia to win by a one-goal margin at 5/2 with bet365.
This Euro 2024 match between Slovenia and Northern Ireland will be played on Sep 7, 2023 and kick off at 19:45. Check below for our tipsters best Slovenia vs Northern Ireland prediction. You may also visit our dedicated betting previews section for the most up to date previews.