Northern Ireland v Switzerland Betting: Hosts to take clean sheet into second leg

Steven Davis Northern Ireland
Michael O'Neill's men will be keen to keep things tight and our tipster thinks that the Swiss will struggle to score at Windsor Park on Thursday

There is sure to be an electric atmosphere inside Windsor Park on Thursday night when Northern Ireland host Switzerland in the first leg of their World Cup qualification play-off.

Northern Ireland made history in reaching the European Championships for the first time in their history last summer and Michael O'Neill's men did more than make up the numbers in France, reaching the last 16 of the competition.

More than 30 years have passed since the boys from Belfast last went to the World Cup and, following an excellent qualification campaign, the Green and White Army have given themselves a real chance of reaching Russia.

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O'Neill's men will come into this clash in confident mood, for Northern Ireland boast a hugely impressive home record; indeed, the boys from Belfast have been beaten in just one their last 10 competitive matches on their own turf - and that defeat came at the hands of world champions, Germany, last month.

As such, bet365's 12/5 (3.40) quote for the hosts to seize the initiative by winning this one could represent decent value for punters, while the same firm go 2/1 (3.0) that the tie remains deadlocked ahead of Sunday's second leg in Switzerland.

Vladimir Petkovic's team, though, will certainly provide stiff opposition; the Swiss came agonisingly close to securing automatic qualification for next summer's World Cup, but they fell at the final hurdle as a loss in Lisbon in their last Group B game saw Portugal snatch top spot - and a place in Russia.

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Switzerland, though, have a second chance to qualify through the play-offs and it is an opportunity that Petkovic's well-drilled team will be determined not to pass up; the visitors can be backed at 13/10 (2.30) with bet365 to take a significant step towards securing a place in the finals with victory in Belfast.

Matches involving the Green and White Army are rarely peppered with goals; indeed, just two of Northern Ireland's last seven matches have seen more than two goals scored - and there have been goals at both ends in just one of the last 10 international fixtures contested in Belfast.

The 4/9 (1.44) quote from bet365, then, for fewer than three goals to be scored could well prove to be a solid selection, while the odds compilers offer 4/6 (1.67) that either team fails to find the target may well prove popular.

O'Neill has stated that he does not believe that his side can win a high-scoring tie and, so, Northern Ireland may well focus their attentions on shutting out the Swiss; bet365's 2/1 (3.0) quote that Northern Ireland keep a clean sheet, therefore, could offer punters a path to profit, for it is a selection that would have landed in five of the last seven competitive matches that the boys from Belfast have played.

Northern Ireland to keep a clean sheet at 2/1 (3.0) for a 1pt stake with bet365