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World Cup 2018

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Home Sport Football

Gareth McAuley in line for Northern Ireland call

Gareth McAuley looks set to return to Northern Ireland's latest squad as they look to wrap up a World Cup qualification play-off place next month.

Michael O'Neill had been without the 37-year-old central defender for victories over San Marino and Czech Republic earlier this month due to a thigh injury he sustained back in June on international duty.

Yet McAuley returned for his club West Brom in their Carabao Cup loss to Manchester City on Wednesday, which will have given O'Neill all the evidence he needs that one of his key senior figures is ready to be named in his squad on Monday.

The group O'Neill selects will largely remain the same as a record five successive wins have left them with an excellent chance of reaching Russia next summer.

O'Neill watched Wigan's win over Bristol Rovers earlier this month when cult hero Will Grigg scored his first Latics goal since January.

Yet Grigg was on the standby list for the last international break and O'Neill has been impressed by Bradford's Shay McCartan, so he might stick with the same four forwards.

Kilmarnock midfielder Jordan Jones, 22, is another thought to be on O'Neill's radar having represented Northern Ireland at youth level and he was taken on a training camp earlier in the summer.

Nottingham Forest's Jamie Ward and Sunderland's Paddy McNair are still not over their respective injury problems and sidelined Watford defender Craig Cathcart will almost certainly not represent his country again this year.

World champions Germany are the visitors to Belfast on Thursday October 5 but O'Neill's side have already sewn up second place in their group.

In the race for the eight play-off spots awarded to group runners-up, they have an adjusted points total of 13 so may already be assured of a two-legged tie by the time they conclude the group campaign against Norway in Oslo on October 8.

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