Bulgaria went on a strong run of four successive wins back in 2018, but since then it’s not been plain sailing and they’ve now won just four of 32 since then.
Two of those came in their last three matches against Lithuania and Georgia, though with those sides ranked 137th and 96th in the world, respectively, they shouldn’t find it so straightforward against this top-50 Northern Irish side.
Ian Baraclough’s side went on a run of 13 matches without victory over 90 minutes, though they’ve now won three of their last six.
Two of those unfortunately came in friendlies, meaning they sit six points adrift of Switzerland in second place of this group, and you get the feeling anything other than maximum points here would end their chances of clinching that second place following their defeat to the Swiss at the weekend.
This being played away may not be the worst thing for the Green and White Army, seeing as they haven’t won on home soil for over two years going back to a 1-0 friendly victory over Luxembourg.
While Bulgaria have won their last two home games, they were against those aforementioned weaker sides, and they were winless in their last eight home game prior to that.
Northern Ireland To Win
The reverse fixture was a tight encounter that finished as a goalless stalemate, though we wouldn’t expect the same outcome here considering what’s on the line for these sides.
While must win games often produce high scoring games, we wouldn’t be convinced of a big scoreline with the lack of formidable attacking talent on display and their respective scoring records.
Indeed, only Steven Davis has more than eight international goals in this Northern Ireland squad and a lack of effective firepower has been a hinderance for this side for a number of years now.
Their potency doesn’t look as bleak as the hosts though, with their 25-man squad totally a combined 15 goals between them on the international stage from 230 combined appearances, with no-one scoring more than three.
This leaves us sceptical of a high scorer here and we’d expect another low scoring game of fine margins.
While Bulgaria have won two of their last three, they come into this off the back of a humbling defeat to Lithuania, and while the visitors also enter the game following a defeat, they were only 1-0 down to Switzerland until the 90th minute, despite having Jamaal Lewis sent off before the break and they can take confidence from that performance.
Bulgaria haven’t beaten a side ranked above them since a 1-0 win over Czech Republic two years ago, and with this being a must win for the visitors we’ll back them to get over the line.
NORTHERN IRELAND TO WIN