Home needs to be a fortress, says Davis

By SFC Media Fri 11 Nov International

Southampton's Steven Davis says Northern Ireland need to make home advantage count as they prepare to welcome Azerbaijan in a World Cup qualifier on Friday.

The visitors currently sit second in the group after taking seven points from their opening three games, and, with Northern Ireland three points behind their opponents, Davis says it’s important that his country push on again following a 2-0 defeat to Germany last time out.

After a goalless draw with Czech Republic and a 4-0 win over San Marino, Northern Ireland have an opportunity to keep pace with the top teams in the group.

“The most important thing is we focus on the game and, from our point of view, we know we’re capable of winning the game,” he told BBC Northern Ireland.

“It’s going to be a similar approach in terms of San Marino, albeit with better quality team we’re facing, so it’s important we show the same intensity and try to make our home games a fortress to pick up consistent results, and if we do that then we’ve got a chance in the group.”

Michael O’Neill’s men are unbeaten in nine matches at home, and Davis says the targets are clear for his side.

“It’s a very important game, there’s no getting away from that,” he said.

“Azerbaijan will be full of confidence coming into the game and they’ve set their stall out early on in the group and it won’t differ in terms of how they approach the game, but, with the international break coming, we’re not in again until March, so it’s important and it would be nice to see us sitting in that second position.”

Northern Ireland could be without a handful of regular players, with striker Connor Washington emerging as a doubt ahead of the game.

“It always seems to happen with important games, you tend to miss one or two important players,” said Davis. “Stuart [Dallas] and Wardy (Jamie Ward) have been very important to us over the past few years, so that’s a big blow, but it also gives somebody else the opportunity to step in and show what they can do.”

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