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Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

Austria look a level above Northern Ireland in Vienna

Both Nations League B Group 3 teams lost to Bosnia last month

Austria's Marko Arnautovichas taken his game to another level since moving to West Ham in summer 2017
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Nations League
Sky Sports Football, 7.45pm Friday

Northern Ireland were the lowest-ranked team in League B Group 3 and they are likely to be propping up the section after they face Austria in Vienna.

Both teams lost to Bosnia last month, leaving the Bosnians with an early six-point lead.

Northern Ireland were defeated 2-1 in Belfast but they could take plenty of positives out of their performance after winning the shot count 26-5 and having a 67 per cent share of possession.

Michael O'Neill is trying to implement a modern, pressing style of football but he cannot do much about the lack of quality in key areas of the pitch.

His team lacked a clinical touch against Bosnia and it could become an ongoing problem due to of a lack of talent in the final third.

Over the last few years O'Neill has relied greatly on centre-forward Kyle Lafferty, who has netted 20 goals in 68 internationals.

But Lafferty has ruled himself out of the October matches, leaving O'Neill with few attacking options.

Josh Magennis and Will Grigg are vying to replace Lafferty but whoever gets the nod faces a considerable step up in class.

Austria have better players in attack and the undoubted pick of the bunch is West Ham forward Marko Arnautovic.

The 29-year-old has taken his game to another level since moving to West Ham in summer 2017 and can pose huge problems for the Northern Ireland defence with his power and pace if fully fit.

Bayern Munich's David Alaba offers the creative spark and the overall depth of the squad looks strong with 12 Austrian players plying their trade in Germany's Bundesliga.

The home side look a level above Northern Ireland and there is value in backing the Austria-Austria double result at odds-against.

Austria-Austria double result
1pt 7-5 Coral, Ladbrokes

Bet on this match at

Team news
Marko Arnautovic (knee) is expected to play but Julian Baumgartlinger (knee) failed to recover in time.

Northern Ireland
Stuart Dallas played with an injury during Leeds's 1-1 draw at home to Brentford last Saturday and is a doubt.

Key stat
Northern Ireland have lost four of their last five competitive matches.

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Northern Ireland have lost four of their last five competitive matches
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