N.Ireland v Serbia preview
Northern Ireland boss Nigel Worthington could start veteran striker David Healy as Serbia visit Windsor Park.
By Jamie Casey
Last Updated: 02/09/11 11:02am
Northern Ireland boss Nigel Worthington could start veteran striker David Healy as Serbia visit Windsor Park on Friday.
The Rangers striker has not scored for his country in three years, but remains their top goalscorer by some distance with 35 goals in 87 appearances.
Appearances for club and country are few and far between these days, but with injury doubts surrounding his club-mate Kyle Lafferty, Healy is in line to partner Warren Feeney up front.
Worthington is also likely to be without Celtic playmaker Paddy McCourt, but Chris Brunt makes a timely return from suspension to ease the creativity fears.
The hosts know anything less than a win will leave them with a mountain to climb, although they will begin the game a point ahead of their counterparts.
Worthington will be out to nullify the 2-1 defeat Serbia inflicted on them in March of this year, a game which was played behind closed doors in Belgrade after Uefa punished Serbia for failing to control their fans.
And he will be encouraged by a trio of high-profile Serbian absentees, with Manchester United's Nemanja Vidic, Juventus' Milos Krasic and Birmingham's towering forward Nikola Zigic all unavailable.
There is no shortage of dangerous players at Serbia manager Vladimir Petrovic's disposal though, with captain Dejan Stankovic, Branislav Ivanovic, Milan Jovanovic and Zoran Tosic all set to start.
Serbia, who are ranked 30 places above Northern Ireland at 29th in Fifa's ranking system, have a 100 per cent record against their hosts, with a 1-0 friendly win in Belfast in 2009 their only other meeting before March's match.