NI set for showdown in Parma - Republic go down fighting in Belgrade

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NI and Newcastle United left-back Jamal Lewis.

Q Radio Sport

Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough will make a late decision on whether to risk Jamal Lewis in Thursday's opening World Cup qualifier against Italy.

The Newcastle left-back, one of only three players in the squad to be a Premier League regular, has missed training this week with a groin problem and is now a major doubt to play in Parma.

"We'll decide in Italy whether we take the risk with Jamal," Baraclough said shortly before the team flew to Italy.

"He hasn't trained, so it's something he's had back at his club and we knew that coming into this camp."

NI captain Steven Davis is set to become the UK’s joint most-capped player - he'll collect his 125th cap in Italy, drawing him level with ex-England keeper Peter Shilton on the all-time list.

After the match against Italy, Northern Ireland face the United States in a friendly at Windsor Park on Sunday before Bulgaria visit for another qualifier next Wednesday.

Northern Ireland have travelled to Parma without striker Liam Boyce, who is due to join up with the camp later after the birth of his second child, and also Derry City goalkeeper Nathan Gartside, who has remained in Belfast for medical reasons.

With Boyce absent and Conor Washington out injured, uncapped Accrington striker Dion Charles could get an early taste of action after his first senior call-up, and Baraclough said he was pleased with how the 25-year-old had settled in this week.

The Republic missed out after pushing Serbia all the way in Belgrade on Wednesday night:



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