Czech Republic v Northern Ireland

Czech Republic coach Karel Jarolím is confident that his team will beat Northern Ireland in Sunday's opening World Cup Group C qualifier in Prague.

It is a statement of intent from Jarolim, who was appointed recently to take over from Pavel Vrba, following the Republic's poor Euro 2016 campaign.

It is a warning Nothern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill will be conscious of as he takes his team to the Generali Arena in the country's capital.

The Northern Irish will no doubt approach the game with confidence having reached the knockout stages at Euro 2016. 

The Green and White Army have virtually a full strength squad to call upon, although Chris Baird is not available after the right-back retired from international football. The influential Craig Cathcart will also miss this weekend's game through injury. 

O'Neill is expected to start the experienced partnership of Gareth McAuley and Jonny Evans in central defence, to cope with the attack of the home side. 

However, Jarolim.believes that his team will win the contest regardless of what line-up the visiting side field on the day. 

The 60-year-old, who no longer has Petr Cech to call upon after the goalkeeper retired from national team duty, told reporters, "I believe we will win (against Northern Ireland). We should go into the match in a good state of mind. It's obvious that we have intelligent players that know how to play football." 

In addition, the side from Central Europe will feel boosted after recording a 3-0 friendly win over Armenia. Nonetheless, the team does have some potential shortcomings to work on – the clean sheet against Armenia was only their second in 26 outings. 

Meanwhile, the Northern Ireland players have had a productive week-long training camp in Austria and are due to fly to Prague on Saturday (3 September). 

The team will no doubt be looking to embark on another successful campaign which will see them qualify for the World Cup in Russia in 2018, though the Czech side also have bold ambitions in Group C.  

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