Belfast Telegraph

Where can I watch Northern Ireland v Czech Republic? A quick guide to the game

Northern Ireland host Czech Republic at the National Stadium at Windsor Park this evening in one of their biggest games in recent history (kick-off 7.45pm).

A draw would be enough to secure second spot in the group and leave the hosts favourably placed to land one of eight play-off places.

Here's your brief look at the night ahead:

Where can I watch the match on TV?

First of all, commiserations to anyone who hasn't got a ticket for what is a fantastic night in prospect at Windsor Park. As on Friday night, a quick glance at all the usual channels may be cause for brief concern. But fear not. While the match being shown on Sky Sports Main Event (still known to all of us as Sky Sports 1 - 401) is Scotland v Malta, Northern Ireland's game can be accessed via the red button.

And if you can't be bothered with that extra button push, go to Sky Sports Mix (bizarrely over on channel 121), where the game will also be shown.

Where can I keep up to date with a unique take on the game?

We're glad you asked. Keep an eye on our website for a live blog - offering our view on all the action live from Windsor Park.

Where will the key battle tackle place?

Oliver Norwood v Vladimir Darida

Constantly the spark during the victory against San Marino, Oliver Norwood has grown from an understudy to Steven Davis into a real midfield threat for Northern Ireland and offers another strong midfield option for Michael O’Neill.

The Brighton ace, who is currently on loan at Championship side Fulham, was the one probing for a way through in Serravalle, and if he can carry over that form then he will be someone the Czech Republic defence will have to keep a constant eye on.

But opposing him will be someone who will need equal attention in Vladimír Darida, who has started the season excellently for Hertha Berlin and is capable of dangerous passes from midfield.

He certainly isn’t the flashiest player, but Darida will split defences with key passes and has a rocket of a right foot if given space.

o v N Ireland_088.png
Driving on: Oliver Norwood wants another bite at a finals. Photo: William Cherry/Presseye

Talking tactics

While Northern Ireland will undoubtedly be going all out for the win, expect Michael O’Neill to put that little bit extra focus on the defensive side of the game to ensure they do get the point they need.

While the Northern Ireland defence has been resolute in this campaign so far, swapping Corry Evans for Kyle Lafferty as a holding midfielder seems like a smart move.

From there it will be a case of relying on what has worked for them so far to finish the job. Chris Brunt and Oliver Norwood will be key for their set piece deliveries and Josh Magennis will be the target man, with his two goals on Friday night hopefully propelling him to more tonight.

The Czechs are usually a defensive-oriented team, but they can’t rely on that tonight with only a win doing it for them, meaning you’re likely to see a more offensively minded line-up.

Ladislav Krejcí and Tomáš Horava will be tasked with cutting inside to help lone striker Michal Krmencík as much as possible, and you can expect Vladimír Darida to test goalkeeper Michael McGovern as much as possible after his easy night on Friday.

The main threats that could spoil the party

One of the biggest threats to Northern Ireland could be themselves after their 3-0 victory against San Marino on Friday.

Manager Michael O’Neill absolutely won’t underestimate the task at hand, but having barely been tested against the Sammarinese, there is a slight concern they might be undercooked coming into this game through no fault of their own.

As for their opponents, Krmencík up front is a proven goalscorer with four goals in seven internationals and will be eager to add to that tally, while Theo Gebre Selassie and Filip Novák provide excellent wide options if Krejcí and Horava do move into more central roles.

A quick start from the visitors is also something that Northern Ireland will have to be aware of.

The Czechs decided to rest some of their players in Germany last week as they were one booking away from a suspension, so they’ll be fresh and ready to go from the first whistle.

A resolute rearguard effort to start will set the platform for them to seize control later.

The big statistic

The last three games between Northern Ireland and the Czech Republic have ended in 0-0 draws, two in Prague and one in Belfast. The Green and White Army would take that tonight as well, but will be going for more.

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