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World Cup 2018

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McAuley available ahead of Northern Ireland squad announcement

Michael O'Neill will name his panel at 12.30pm today (Monday)

By Liam Blackburn

Gareth McAuley looks set to return to the Northern Ireland 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.

McAuley returned for his club West Brom in their Carabao Cup loss to Manchester City last week, 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 today.

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.

However, Kilmarnock midfielder Jordan Jones, 22, is 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.

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.

Belfast Telegraph

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