Worthington looks to get back on track
Published 25/03/2011 | 05:00
The race for Euro 2012 resumes tonight with six qualifying games down for decision.
In a campaign that's seen Northern Ireland beat Slovenia but draw with the Faroe Islands, Nigel Worthington's men face a tough trip to Serbia.
The Netherlands and World champions Spain look to maintain their 100pc records, while France seek to continue their renaissance under Laurent Blanc.
Serbia v Northern Ireland, 7.30
AFTER their 3-0 humbling at the hands of Scotland in the Carling Nations Cup in Dublin last month, it's back to the competitive world of European Championships qualifying for Northern Ireland.
Former England U-21 goalkeeper Lee Camp will replace Maik Taylor in goal for Worthington's team, who lead the Serbs by a point in a tight looking race for second place behind Italy. The Serbs have yet to win at home, having been held by Slovenia and losing to Estonia, and after their win in Maribor in September the Ulstermen will have no fear.
Slovenia v Italy, 7.45
THEIR scoreless draw in Belfast is the only slip from the Italians so far as they travel to Ljubljana looking to continue their revival under Cesare Prandelli.
They make the short journey across the border without Mario Balotelli and Daniele De Rossi, who are left behind for disciplinary reasons, so Lazio's Stefano Mauri is set to play off Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini up front.
The Slovenians will know their opponents well with seven of their squad operating in Italy and a home victory can put them joint top with the Azzurri.
Luxembourg v France, 8.0
PATRICE Evra and Franck Ribery return to the French fold as the Laurent Blanc project continues in Luxembourg.
The controversial pair have not played for their country since Les Bleus' World Cup meltdown and the former centre-half is playing down their return. France have won three matches on the trot after losing their opener to Belarus and beat their neighbours 2-0 in October.
Hungary v Holland, 7.30
WORLD Cup villains Holland are unbeaten so far -- and come into the game on the back of five wins in a row -- but are depleted for the visit to Budapest, where they face a Hungary team on the cusp of a revival
Holland travel without Maarten Stekelenburg, Arjen Robben, Klaas Jan Huntelaar, Hedwiges Maduro, Theo Janssen and Mark van Bommel for the clash, but they still have plenty of quality in their ranks.
Spain v Czech Republic, 9.0
XAVI will win his 100th cap for the World and European champions, who face a Czech side second in the group and in bullish mood according to Tomas Rosicky.
"We have no pressure on us,'' he said. "Everyone is expecting Spain to win but we may just surprise you. We are looking forward to it and we will not give it away easily.''
Austria v Belgium, 7.30
THESE sides scored eight goals between them when they last met, but with Germany steaming ahead in the group, both teams need better than a 4-4 draw this time around.
Austria are three points ahead of the Belgians with a game in hand, so it's up to the highly rated visitors to take the initiative at the Ernst Happel Stadium.
Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku is attracting interest from all the top clubs. However, his side are without established stars Thomas Vermaelen and Marouane Fellaini for this clash.
- Wales' star player Gareth Bale will miss tomorrow's Group G qualifier with England due to a hamstring injury. The Welsh FA said yesterday that Bale "felt some muscle tightness" after playing for Tottenham last weekend.