Northern Ireland injury doubts over Will Grigg and Andrew Little

Will Grigg
Will Grigg is an injury doubt for the game with Russia

Walsall striker Will Grigg is expected to miss Northern Ireland's World Cup games against Russia and Sweden because of a hamstring injury.

Grigg, who made his first international start in last month's goalless draw in Malta, has been unable to train with Michael O'Neill's squad this week.

He had been tipped to play as a lone front man against Russia on Friday as Kyle Lafferty is suspended.

Burnley's Martin Paterson is now favourite to spearhead the NI attack.

O'Neill also has Inverness forward Billy McKay and Aberdeen pair Niall McGinn and Josh Magennis available.

Rangers utility man Andrew Little is suffering from a knee problem and the his fitness will be assessed further before Friday's game.

O'Neill's selection for a tough assignment against the highly rated Russians is expected to be along the same lines as in Valletta.

Roy Carroll is set to start in goal, with Aaron Hughes, Daniel Lafferty, Gareth McAuley and Jonny Evans likely to make up the back four.

Alex Bruce is favourite to occupy a position in front of the defence as regular starter Chris Baird is suspended.

Shane Ferguson, Chris Brunt, Steven Davis and Niall McGinn should form the midfield, with Grigg, if fit, beginning the game in the enforced absence of Kyle Lafferty, who also sits out the clash because of a one-match ban.

Aberdeen striker Josh Magennis may play some part after being called into the squad on Sunday night, following an impressive display for Aberdeen against Celtic on Saturday, in which he scored two goals.

Magennis replaced Jamie Ward, who was ruled out through injury.

O'Neill has midfielders Grant McCann and Sammy Clingan back in his squad, along with striker Martin Paterson.

Baird and Lafferty will be available for selection for the game with the Israelis.

The unbeaten Russians defend a record of four wins from four qualifying matches without conceding a goal when they visit Windsor Park on Friday, with Israel providing the opposition on Tuesday 26 March.

Josh Magennis
Josh Magennis was called into the squad on Sunday

"We are missing Kyle [Lafferty] up front, but I have other options and we will try to be as positive as we dare against an excellent team," said o'Neill.

"Sometimes you can afford to be more adventurous but given the quality of the Russians, we are going to have to be very set and disciplined in how we play.

"Russia are in a very strong position and we will have to do most of our attacking on the counter-attack.

"The players believe they are going in the right direction and while we did well in the away match in Russia, there were areas we needed to improve on."

He added: "We will approach the Israel game in a different fashion as we have to get points on the board.

"We almost won in Portugal thanks to a good strategy and a solid base and that's the key to getting results at this level. These two games will be no different."

Northern Ireland have three points from their opening four qualifying fixtures, having drawn their last three games.

O'Neill is still looking for his first win as an international manager after taking over the reins in February 2012.

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