UEFA Nations League Preview: Northern Ireland -v- Albania
New Northern Ireland boss Tanya Oxtoby expects a big improvement as the Green and White Army look to kickstart their UEFA Nations League campaign at Seaview (kick-off 7pm).
Oxtoby will oversee a home fixture for the first time since replacing Kenny Shiels at the helm earlier this year and will hope to put up a better showing than in Saturday’s 3-0 defeat to the Republic of Ireland.
The North were comfortably beaten in front of almost 36,000 spectators - a record - in the first women’s international ever played at the Aviva Stadium.
They failed to register a single shot on goal over 90 minutes in a game the Republic dominated as strikes from Lucy Quinn, Kyra Carusa and Lily Agg settled the tie.
The result leaves Northern Ireland bottom after the first round of games, something Oxtoby hopes to rectify at the home of north Belfast side Crusaders.
“We face another tough challenge against Albania tonight,” Oxtoby said in her programme notes ahead of the clash.
“They earned a point following a home draw against Hungary in their first game in the group.
“Although Hungary had more attempts on goal during the game in Shkoder, Albania had almost as many attempts on target as the Hungarians and they took their chance when it came their way.
“As you would expect we have done our homework on Albania and we are looking forward to seeing our girls take another step in our journey together and play some exciting football.”
Sarah McFadden will mark the milestone of her 100th cap with the captain’s armband while Lauren Wade is in line for cap number 50.
Albania will aim to back up a positive opening-day display, which yielded a point at home to Hungary, as they descend on Belfast with no injury worries.
Boss Armir Grima has a full deck to choose from as the 72nd-ranked side in the world face another step up in class against the North.
Qendresa Krasniqi scored Albania’s goal on Saturday, assisted by full-back Lucije Gjini, midway through the first half before Evelin Fenyvesi rescued a point for the Magyars.
Krasniqi said: "The objective is to be the first in this group. I believe that with work, discipline, commitment, all united, I believe we will succeed.
“Normally it was the first game. In the first half we gave everything we could. The second half also went well, we conceded a goal in the mess.
“I believe that we will pass this part and in other matches we will give our best to win.”
Albania were without Ezmiralda Franja and Mimoza Hamidi for the Hungary game but both are expected to be fit for the Seaview clash.
The backbone of the side, including Gjini, play for Albanian champs Vllaznia while midfielder Alma Hila plays professionally in Italy’s Serie A with Como.
Referee:Zulema González (Spain).
Oxtoby made a losing start to her stint as boss following a mixed bag of friendly results under interim bosses Andy Waterworth and Gail Redmond.
Waterworth oversaw a 4-1 hammering by Wales, while Redmond followed up a 3-0 reverse to Scotland in June with an impressive 2-0 win over Czechia.
Albania came into the Nations League campaign on the back of a 3-1 friendly win over North Macedonia in April.
They finished a distant fourth in World Cup qualifying, with 5-0 and 4-0 wins over Armenia the highlights of the campaign.
Northern Ireland 1/9; Draw 11/2; Albania 9/1.
Northern Ireland 1 – 0 Albania
Doubtful: Ezmiralda Franja, Mimoza Hamidi.