Michael O'Neill says his NI side prepared for Athens hostility

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NI boss O'Neill wary of Greek threat
Euro 2016 Group F qualifier: Greece v Northern Ireland
Venue: Karaiskakis Stadium, Piraeus Date: Tuesday, 14 October Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio Ulster and the BBC Sport website

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill says his players will be able to deal with the likely hostile atmosphere in Tuesday's Euro 2016 qualifier against Greece in Athens.

O'Neill's Group F leaders will be playing in front of home fans who were banned from Greece's opening home defeat by Romania last month.

That followed previous disturbances at games in Athens.

"I think we'll rise to it, not be intimidated by it," said O'Neill.

Claudio Ranieri's Greek side are badly in need of a win as they are five points behind Northern Ireland after following their opening defeat by Romania with Saturday's 1-1 draw in Finland.

However, O'Neill believes his team will relish the highly-charged Athens occasion.

"I think our side enjoyed the great atmosphere at Windsor Park when we beat the Faroe Islands on Saturday night and there was a great atmosphere when we beat Hungary in Budapest.

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Conor McLauglin

"We've seen this group of players in front of 60,000 people in Uruguay too, so I don't have any fears about that."

Victory for O'Neill's side would mean the first time in Northern Ireland history that they have kicked off a qualifying campaign with three straight wins.

However, the Northern Ireland boss has been sounding a cautious note ahead of the game against a Greek side that reached the last 16 at the World Cup in the summer.

"When we looked at the fixtures when they came out and our best chances of getting points this wouldn't have been a game we would have looked at," added O'Neill.

'We've never said we think we can win the group or anything like that, but the belief is in this squad that they are more than capable of competing.

"The start we've had has given us the belief that we can come here and add to our points tally."

Greece's stuttering start to the group has already led to suggestions that Ranieri's job is under threat even though he has only been in charge for two months.

The former Chelsea manager laughed off that speculation on Monday although he acknowledged that failing to reach the finals would be "a disaster".

"I know I have to arrive in the finals in Paris, that is my goal," said the Italian.

"It is very important to beat Northern Ireland."

As It Stood

A

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Iceland22006066
2Czech Rep22004226
3Netherlands21014313
4Kazakhstan201113-21
5Latvia201103-31
6Turkey200215-40

B

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Wales21102114
2Belgium11006063
3Israel11002113
4Cyprus21013303
5Bos-Herze201112-11
6Andorra200218-70

C

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Slovakia22003126
2Spain21016333
3Ukraine21012113
4Macedonia210147-33
5Luxembourg201134-11
6Belarus201113-21

D

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Poland22009096
2R. of Ireland22009186
3Scotland21012203
4Germany210123-13
5Georgia200213-20
6Gibraltar2002014-140

E

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1England22007076
2Lithuania22003036
3Estonia21011103
4Slovenia21011103
5Switzerland200203-30
6San Marino200207-70

F

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Northern Ireland22004136
2Finland21104224
3Romania21102114
4Hungary201123-11
5Greece201112-11
6Faroe Islands200215-40

G

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Russia21105144
2Montenegro21102024
3Austria21103214
4Sweden20202202
5Liechtenstein201104-41
6Moldova200214-30

H

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Italy22004136
2Croatia22003036
3Norway21013213
4Bulgaria21012203
5Azerbaijan200224-20
6Malta200205-50

I

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Denmark21103214
2Albania21102114
3Serbia10101101
4Armenia201123-11
5Portugal100101-10
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