Belfast Telegraph

Two injury worries for Northern Ireland ahead of Euro 2020 qualififers against the Netherlands and Germany

Craig Cathcart
Craig Cathcart

In just two days' time, Michael O'Neill will announce the Northern Ireland squad that will face Germany in the final two Euro 2020 qualifiers.

However, the international boss has two fresh injury concerns after the weekend's action.

Defenders Craig Cathcart and Michael Smith were both withdrawn during their club side's games with Northern Ireland left to sweat over their fitness.

Cathcart was taken off only 20 minutes into Watford's 2-1 Premier League defeat to Chelsea on Saturday while in Scotland, Michael Smith lasted only 53 minutes of his Hearts' side's League Cup semi-final loss to Rangers.

Cathcart suffered a back spasm, leaving his club boss Quique Sanchez Flores to bemoan the pressure being put on his players.

“He didn’t report anything during the week and even in the warm-up it’s okay, nothing," the manager said. "But in the press conference this week I said the players, when they are playing with these kind of pressures – so heavy, so bad – the body could react in a lot of directions that we can’t control.

"Probably it’s the first time I’ve seen Cathcart leaving (due to an injury) after five minutes, but now the pressure is there, it’s inside of the players and the muscles are reacting different."

Midfielder Jordan Thompson started Northern Ireland's friendly against the Czech Republic last month but was left out of his Blackpool side's win over Peterbrough on Saturday. Manager Simon Grayson said that, while the 22-year-old had suffered a knee injury in training, he was left out only as a precaution and should therefore be fit for Northern Ireland's international double-header.

Northern Ireland first host the Netherlands at Windsor Park on Saturday, November 16 and then travel to face Germany on Tuesday, November 19.

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