Ukraine vs Northern Ireland preview, team news, stats, live on Sky Sports
Kyle Lafferty and Dan Ballard are back available for Northern Ireland; watch Ukraine vs Northern Ireland live on Sky Sports Main Event from 6.55pm on Thursday; kick-off 7pm
Wednesday 2 June 2021 16:16, UK
Team news and stats ahead of the international friendly between Ukraine and Northern Ireland on Thursday, live on Sky Sports (kick-off 7pm).
Ian Baraclough’s Northern Ireland squad for this summer camp was a blend of youth and experience, but he went pretty much as strong as he could for the Malta match, naming a side that included Stuart Dallas as captain, Craig Cathcart, Paddy McNair and McGinn.
Given the difficulty of Thursday’s fixture it seems likely the manager will go a similar way again with only minimal changes expected to the starting line-up.
Conor Bradley, 17, made his debut off the bench at the weekend, and opportunities for the youngsters are again only likely to come when changes are made after the break.
Can I get an encore?
Northern Ireland got some major monkeys off their back in Sunday’s 3-0 win over Malta – a first victory inside 90 minutes for Ian Baraclough at the 12th attempt, and also the first time the manager had seen his side score more than
one goal in a match.
The performance offered plenty for Northern Ireland to build on, but Thursday’s fixture is a massively more difficult prospect. Where Malta are ranked 175th in the world and went into the weekend fixture desperately short of match fitness, Ukraine are ranked 24th and going through their final tune-ups for Euro 2020. The match will prove a very different test.
Two players that might come into the reckoning to start are Kyle Lafferty and Dan Ballard. The pair were missing at the weekend as Ballard helped Blackpool to promotion via the League One play-off final, while Lafferty had been a late arrival following Kilmarnock’s relegation.
Both have now been integrated into the group and are available. George Saville, who was a substitute at the weekend after coming into the group late himself, will also be pushing for a start.
It will happen behind closed doors, but Ukraine will be looking to lay down a marker before the summer in their penultimate fixture before they open their Group C campaign against Holland on June 13.
That means players will be playing for their places in Andriy Shevchenko’s side, with only this and Monday’s match against Cyprus left for those on the fringes to make their mark.
A fixture against the Ukrainians will send Northern Irish minds back to the last European Championships and Lyon.
It was there that Northern Ireland beat Ukraine 2-0 with second-half goals from Gareth McAuley and Niall McGinn giving Michael O’Neill’s side what proved to be their only points of the campaign.
How to follow
Ukraine vs Northern Ireland will be shown live on Sky Sports Main Event from 6.55pm; kick-off 7pm. Sky Sports customers can watch in-game clips in the live match blog on the Sky Sports website and app. Highlights will also be published on the Sky Sports digital platforms and the Sky Sports Football YouTube channel shortly after the final whistle.
- This will be the sixth meeting between Ukraine and Northern Ireland in all competitions, with the previous five seeing two victories for Ukraine and one for the visitors (D2).
- After losing their first two games against Ukraine (in 1996 and 1997), Northern Ireland are unbeaten in their last three meetings with them across all competitions (W1 D2). They beat them 2-0 in their most recent meeting, which came at the European Championships in 2016.
- Northern Ireland will be looking to win consecutive friendlies away from home for the first time since June 2004, having beaten Czech Republic in their most recent such game (3-2 in October 2019).
- Ukraine have drawn each of their last four internationals, with all four of them ending with the same scoreline (1-1). They have scored the opening goal but failed to win in two of their most recent three.
- Northern Ireland are looking for their first victory since October 2019 (3-2 v Czech Republic), having failed to win any of their last 13 games across all competitions (D5 L8).
- Viktor Tsygankov has netted three goals in his last six appearances for Ukraine, with all three of those coming as a substitute.
- Northern Ireland have scored just eight goals in their last 13 internationals, while they’ve not scored more than once in any of the games in this run.
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