Bosnia-Herzegovina v Northern Ireland
Thursday 8 November, 19:45
Live on Sky Sports
Changing times for Bosnia
Bosnia-Herzegovina could only finish fourth in their Euro 2020 qualifying group, finishing behind Italy, Finland and Greece. They were beaten five times, and manager, Robert Prosinečki, paid the price as he was dismissed in November 2019.
Dušan Bajević is the new man in charge and after drawing 1-1 in Italy, his team could only follow up with a 2-1 home defeat to Poland in the Nations League.
It was their performance in that competition in 2018 that got them into this qualifier, as they topped their League B Group – finishing above Austria, and Northern Ireland.
As for the team news, both Rusmir Cviko and Haris Duljevic have tested positive for the coronavirus, so they will be missing. Key centre back, Ermin Bicakcic is also out through injury. Edin Dzeko is the star man for Bosnia, but he is yet to score in two starts for Roma this season.
Irish need to re-focus following Norway defeat
Northern Ireland also have a new manager in charge, with Ian Baraclough taking over from the departing, Michael O’Neill. Baraclough has big shoes to fill, and he’s made a mixed start to life as number one.
A 1-1 draw in Romania was a good battling performance given that they went in at half time 1-0 down and with 10 men. They were thrashed at home to Norway last time though, losing 5-1, which was their heaviest home defeat since 2002.
On the positive side, Jonny Evans, is back in the squad having missed both of those games. He is an experienced head at the back, and I doubt they would have conceded five against the Norwegians if he was playing.
The hosts are the [1.93] favourites for this semi-final tie, with the draw at [3.5] and the away win at [4.9]. Sarajevo has proven a difficult place for visiting teams in recent years, but they have lost their last two here, and the statistics are showing that away advantage has been eroded in the behind closed doors environment.
Bosnia have confirmed that 2000 fans will be in attendance, but they won’t be able to make the same amount of noise as a full stadium would.
I am leaning towards the draw in this one. There really isn’t much to split the two teams, and neither are in great form. They also both have new managers that have an identical record, and while Bosnia are at home, they have a limited capacity, and more players missing. I can definitely see this one going the distance – and I wouldn’t rule out a goalless draw.
Given what I have outlined above, I definitely prefer Under 2.5 Goals at [1.66] than I do Over 2.5 at [2.46]. Bosnia do have Eden Dzeko, who is the stand-out player on the team sheet, but Northern Ireland don’t have that kind of goalscorer, and they can’t afford to go toe-to-toe with their opponents.
Tipping singles at that kind of price isn’t my style though, but I wouldn’t rule out Under 1.5 Goals which is currently trading at around the [3.0] mark on the Betfair Exchange.
Key Opta Stat
Bosnia have won just four of their last 14 games in all competitions (D3 L7), losing three of their last five (W1 D1).