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N. Ireland v Azerbaijan

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Brunt: Back in the fold

Brunt: Back in the fold

Northern Ireland welcome back Chris Brunt and Shane Ferguson for their World Cup qualifying encounter against Azerbaijan at Windsor Park on Wednesday evening.

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West Brom midfielder Brunt and Newcastle utility man Ferguson are both back in the fold having recovered from respective hamstring and groin injuries.

Both players were absent for the Green and White Army's surprise draw with Portugal, which followed defeat to Russia and a draw with Luxembourg.

Irish coach Michael O'Neill will be desperate to end his first year in charge with a win, with his next fixture only booked in for March.

"It's time for us to put three points on the board. That players know that and I know that," O'Neill said.

"I'm desperate to get my first win as manager and to get the first win with this group of players.

"The players can move on very quickly, they go back to their clubs and refocus so it's probably the manager that carries a bad result around longer; I don't have another game to get it out of my system.

"It's hugely important that we start winning games now. We have a four-month break (between qualifiers) after this game and you want to go into that break on the back of a positive result and a positive performance.

O'Neill is set to give Dean Shiels a recall, while he will hand late fitness tests to Ryan McGivern and Aaron Hughes before finalising his starting XI.

Azerbaijan coach Berti Vogts has reported seven players unfit for duty.

The former Germany and Scotland tactician will be looking to Ruslan Abishov to inspire his side to what would be a surprise victory.

Posted: 14/11/12 08:58

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