Northern Ireland: Aaron Hughes to miss World Cup qualifiers

Northern Ireland defender Aaron Hughes

Northern Ireland defender Aaron Hughes has been ruled out of the World Cup qualifiers against Azerbaijan and Israel because of injury.

The Fulham player, 33, was hurt during training and Bradford City's Rory McArdle comes in as his replacement.

Chris Brunt, Chris Baird and Sammy Clingan return but there is no place for Barnsley winger Paddy McCourt.

Striker Kyle Lafferty is banned for the Azerbaijan game and is on standby for the Tel Aviv clash with Israel.

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill criticised Palermo forward Lafferty after his dismissal against Portugal last month.

Brunt returns from suspension while QPR midfielder Baird is named in the squad after being drafted in as a replacement for the defeat to Portugal and the humbling at the hands of Luxembourg.

Kilmarnock midfielder Clingan has missed NI's last three qualifiers because of a knee injury.

"Really pleased to be back in the international set-up again," Clingan said on Twitter.external-link

Northern Ireland take on Azerbaijan in Baku on 11 October and finish the campaign against Israel four days later.

O'Neill's team are fourth in Group F, ahead of Luxembourg on goal difference and a point clear of bottom side Azerbaijan.

Northern Ireland squad:

Goalkeepers: Roy Carroll, Alan Mannus, Michael McGovern.

Defenders: Gareth McAuley, Jonathan Evans, Alex Bruce, Lee Hodson, Daniel Lafferty, Craig Cathcart, Rory McArdle.

Midfielders: Chris Baird, Steven Davis, Oliver Norwood, Niall McGinn, Shane Ferguson, Corry Evans, Chris Brunt.

Forwards: Will Grigg, Billy McKay, Martin Paterson, Jamie Ward, Josh Magennis.