Austria v Northern Ireland: Hosts can edge out O'Neil's men

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill
Michael O'Neill's Northern Ireland face a difficult trip to Austria
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Simon Mail previews Northern Ireland's trip to Austria in their latest Nations League fixture...

"Six of Northern Ireland's last eight competitive defeats have all come by one-goal and five of these have all finished 1-0."

Austria v Northern Ireland
Friday, 19:45
Live on Sky Sports Football

Austria bidding to respond to opening defeat

Austria suffered a disappointing start to their Nations League campaign after losing 1-0 in Bosnia-Herzegovina last month. The visitors more than played their part in a tight match but their lack of ruthlessness in the final third, with only one shot on target despite having more attempts than their opponents, proved costly.

It was the first competitive game in charge for Franco Foda and brought a halt to a promising run of results in friendlies. Austria defeated Uruguay 2-1 towards the end of last year and also beat then world champions Germany by the same scoreline just before the World Cup started. Foda's only other loss in charge came against Brazil but their form certainly offered encouragement heading into this new competition.

Goals still a problem for Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland missed out on a place at the World Cup after their 1-0 play-off defeat on aggregate to Switzerland last year. It summed up the biggest obstacle facing Michael O'Neill's side which is their lack of goals. The team won plenty of admiration for their performance at Euro 2016 but success was built on defensive solidity due to their attacking limitations.

Their Nations League opener ended in a 2-1 home defeat to Bosnia despite pushing their opponents all the way. Northern Ireland dominated the shot count with 26 efforts and eight on target but could only muster a late consolation from Will Grigg. The side eased to a 3-0 home friendly win over Israel in their last match.

Hosts worthy favourites to claim points

Austria are [1.56] to secure their first Nations League win against Northern Ireland. The hosts deserve to be favourites and their form, albeit in friendlies, has been stronger than their opponents. That said, their price is far from generous and there are better ways of supporting the Austrians than lumping on them at odds-on.

Northern Ireland have only won two of their last nine matches and there is no temptation to side with the visitors at [7.4]. O'Neill's team have gone four games without a victory away from home and have failed to score during this run. It looks a tough ask for them to end this drought with a victory in Vienna.

The draw is on offer at [4.1] and should not be ruled out especially in a match involving a dogged Northern Ireland side. The visitors will probably set up to contain Austria initially with the intention of catching them on the counter-attack or from a set-piece. But Austria deserve their status as the most likely winners and should have the quality, with the likes of Marko Arnautovic in attack, to break them down.

Slender Austria win looks the best bet

Austria are fancied to come out on top but Northern Ireland are obdurate opponents and the most likely outcome could be a one-goal home victory. Six of Northern Ireland's last eight competitive defeats have all come by one-goal and five of these have all finished 1-0. It could also be worth looking at Betfair's Same Game Multi option where combining a home win and under 2.5 goals is a tempting 2.95.

Follow Simon's bets on Twitter @watfordtipster

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