Manager Michael O’Neill has told Northern Ireland fans not to expect a walkover against Luxembourg on Tuesday night at Windsor Park.
The warning seems a strange one given the visitors are actually rated 23 places above O’Neill’s side in the FIFA rankings, but a mixture of home advantage and historical superiority mean Northern Ireland go in to their second World Cup qualifier as favourites.
O’Neill is aware his side will have to take on much more of the attacking responsibility than they did in Friday’s 2-0 defeat in Russia but is careful not to downplay the opposition.
Indeed, if there was any sense that Luxembourg would be a soft touch they dispelled it in their Group F opener against Portugal - a match that saw them take a surprise lead before losing 2-1.
“When you look at the group we have you could say the perception is that this will be our easiest game, but you’d only need to have a conversation with the Portuguese and their manager to know it’s not going to be straightforward,” said O’Neill.
“I wouldn’t say it’s as easy a game as you’ll get. If you look at Luxembourg, you’ll see in recent times their games have been very close.
“In their last few games they’ve been beaten 2-1 by Georgia, 1-0 by Switzerland, they beat Macedonia 2-1.
“That gives you an indication that this is not a team, with all due respect, that’s a San Marino or a Liechtenstein that is getting beaten 7-0 or 8-0 in qualifying games.
“The biggest thing against Portugal was their work-rate and their willingness to work. They played with a 4-5-1 formation, had a lot of energy in midfield and scored a great goal from a wide area.
“Going ahead gave them a massive boost and they worked very hard for each other. I’ve no doubt they’ll do the same tomorrow night.”