Talking points as Northern Ireland bid to boost survival hopes against Kosovo

Ian Baraclough’s side have never won a match in the Nations League.

Talking points as Northern Ireland bid to boost survival hopes against Kosovo

Northern Ireland host Kosovo at Windsor Park on Saturday in the first of their final two Nations League fixtures of this campaign.

After a winless run through four games in June, the pressure is on manager Ian Baraclough, but the build-up to the fixture has been dominated by controversy surrounding veteran striker Kyle Lafferty.

Here, the PA news agency looks at the key talking points ahead of the game.

Lafferty sent home

The Irish FA announced on Friday morning that Northern Ireland’s second-highest goalscorer had been withdrawn from Baraclough’s squad for these fixtures, 24 hours after his club Kilmarnock announced they had launched an investigation into a video circulating online which appeared to show him using alleged sectarian language. The Irish FA’s statement also said Lafferty had been struggling with a back problem which Baraclough later said would have ruled him out of Saturday’s game regardless, adding a layer of ambiguity as to the precise reason for his withdrawal. Questions on the matter in Friday’s press conference were shut down in some often tense encounters, and the matter has now very much overshadowed the build-up to an important match.

No replacement

Northern Ireland v Slovakia – UEFA Euro 2020 – Play-offs – Final – Windsor Park
Kyle Lafferty has been withdrawn from the Northern Ireland squad (Liam McBurney/PA)

Nations League hoodoo

Northern Ireland v Cyprus – UEFA Nations League – Group 2 – Windsor Park
A draw with Cyprus in June meant that Northern Ireland remain winless in the Nations League (Niall Carson/PA)

Underrated Kosovo

Kosovo v Northern Ireland – UEFA Nations League – Group C2 – Fadil Vokrri Stadium
Northern Ireland suffered a 3-2 defeat to Kosovo in Pristina (Valdrin Xhemaj/PA)

Reinforcements

Northern Ireland v USA – International Friendly – Windsor Park
Corry Evans is among the senior players back in Ian Baraclough’s squad (Liam McBurney/PA)

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