Home comforts to help Azeri earn point against Northern Ireland
There may be nothing to play for in terms of World Cup qualification as Azerbaijan host Northern Ireland in Baku, but for the Green and White Army it is an important clash as they look to build for future campaigns.
Michael O’Neill’s side have had a mixed time in Group F with the highs of beating Russia and drawing with Portugal, but there have been plenty of low points with the defeat against Luxembourg last time out a major disappointment.
A 1-1 draw with Friday’s opponents at Windsor Park last November was also a major set-back and will still be in the minds of the Northern Irish faithful. David Healy’s 96th minute strike rescued a point for Norn Iron on what was a hugely frustrating night in Belfast.
Northern Ireland will be hopeful of writing those wrongs but Azerbaijan, despite being bottom of the table, are no pushovers on their home turf.
Milli have only lost once in eight matches – a run which has featured five draws and two victories. More impressively, Berti Vogts’ side have lost to only Portugal at the Backcell Arena since October 2011, but there must be some scepticism about this run with draws against the lowly ranked Luxembourg (126) and Andorra (200).
Northern Ireland certainly have more in their armoury than those two sides and have the potential to cause Azerbaijan problems, but their task has become much harder after experienced defender Aaron Hughes and Aberdeen striker Josh Magennis were ruled out through injury, while Palermo forward Kyle Lafferty is suspended.
With that in mind, it seems the draw represents excellent value at 2/1 with Ladbrokes as both sides battle to restore some pride.
Elsewhere, Azeri hot-shot Rufat Dadashov is 7/4 to score anytime or 6/1 to score first the first goal against Northern Ireland.
Since making his international debut in February, the Kaiserslautern II striker has scored three goals in his six appearances and the Irish defence will need to be wary of him when the two sides meet.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.