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Northern Ireland will face their toughest test in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers when they meet Group C leaders Germany in Hanover.
The world champions outclassed Michael O’Neill’s side in a 1-0 victory at Euro 2016 in June.
The main selection dilemma for O’Neill is in attack after substitute Kyle Lafferty impressed with a double in Saturday’s 4-0 win over San Marino.
Kyle Lafferty is vying for a start with Josh Magennis and Conor Washington.
Lafferty continues to prosper at international level but was dropped to the bench against San Marino after playing only 45 minutes for Norwich City since last month’s scoreless draw with the Czech Republic.
Magennis started against san Marino in Belfast with Washington introduced before Lafferty came on for an 18-minute cameo.
O’Neill has suggested “as many as five or six” changes from Saturday’s win, which left Northern Ireland third in the group after two matches and two points behind Germany and Azerbaijan.
Aaron Hughes would add valuable experience in defence, while there could also be a return for industrious midfielder Corry Evans.
“We are going to play against some of the best players in the world and we are looking forward to the challenge,” Northern Ireland skipper Steven Davis said.
Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan is expected to start for Germany, having made his first appearance in the famous white shirt for nearly a year – following injury – in Saturday’s 3-0 win over the Czech Republic.
- Germany have won nine of their previous 15 matches against Northern Ireland (D2 L4).
- Northern Ireland’s last win against Germany was in November 1983 (1-0) courtesy of a goal from Norman Whiteside.
- That win in November 1983 is Northern Ireland’s only win in Germany (D2 L3).
- The Green and White Army have scored just eight goals in their last 13 matches against Germany and never more than once in a game in this run.
- In their last meeting at Euro 2016, which Germany won 1-0, Northern Ireland’s Michael McGovern made eight saves; a figure only three other keepers bettered in a single game at the tournament.
- Northern Ireland have not lost a qualifying game since November 2014, with a current run of eight games unbeaten (W4 D4).
- Northern Ireland have conceded just three goals in their last nine internationals, including two successive clean sheets in this World Cup qualifying campaign.
- Kyle Lafferty has scored nine times in his last 11 qualifiers for Northern Ireland.
Germany coach Joachim Loew is spoilt for choice – defenders Jerome Boateng and Jonas Hector, plus winger Julian Draxler are fit despite picking up knocks against the Czechs in Hamburg.
Thomas Mueller has now scored four goals in his last two internationals after his weekend double.
Loew expects a hard-fought encounter on Tuesday night.
“The Northern Ireland team is passionate, the players have a big heart,” Loew said.
“A large part of their Euro 2016 squad will also be in Hanover, so we know what to expect.”
Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/37538739