Romania boss Anghel Iordanescu believes silencing Kyle Lafferty is the key to his side’s crunch Euro 2016 qualifier against Northern Ireland.
Lafferty has had an up and down international career but is currently riding the crest of a wave, scoring five times to secure victories over Hungary, Greece, the Faroe Islands and Finland.
The only time he has failed to find the net in the campaign came in Bucharest in November, when Romania moved top of Group F with a 2-0 success.
While manager Michael O’Neill will be hoping to coax another totemic performance from the 27-year-old Kesh native, who scored a superb brace against the Finns in March, Iordanescu is planning another shutout.
“Lafferty is a very good player, a strong man,” said Iordanescu, who was called out of retirement to take charge of the national side for the third time last year.
“He has good quality and he can play across the full width of the pitch.
“He is able to make the difference in a game, especially when they play the ball from deep.
“We will see how we deal with him this time but we hope he will not find a path to goal this time.
“But be sure of the fact that we treat every player seriously, nothing will surprise us.”
Iordanescu, a 65-year-old whose diverse CV includes stints in military command and politics, also insisted Northern Ireland could no longer use the element of surprise to their advantage.
Having entered the draw as a fifth seed following their dismal 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign, few expected O’Neill’s side to open their account with three straight wins this time.
“Don’t forget that until they came to Bucharest, Northern Ireland were top of the group,” he said.
“This is a team that cannot be talked of as a surprise, we must say they are confirmed as a team of quality.
“You see their squad and you have several Premier League players, several from the top tier in Scotland and others from the Championship. We are not afraid of anything but we know it will be a second tough match.”
Iordanescu is short of full strength for the encounter at Windsor Park, with playmaker Lucian Sanmartean and veteran Razvan Rat failing to respond to a left-field rehabilitation programme involving a Serbian healer known for her use of horse placentas.
Goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon, striker Ciprian Marica and midfielder Cristian Tanase are also out, leaving a couple of gaps to fill.
“We are without five of our most important players due to medical problems,” the coach said.
“Rat and Sanmartean tried to recover with some late treatment in Serbia but are not okay. We come here in a special situation.”