Veteran defender Gareth McAuley has been recalled into the Northern Ireland (NI) squad ahead of their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Germany and Norway slated for October.
The 37-year old had earlier missed last month’s victories over San Marino and Czech Republic as a result of a thigh injury.
Another NI defender in Craig Cathcart didn’t make the 26-man squad because of a knee injury but there are call-ups for uncapped pair Jordan Jones and George Saville.
Martin O’Neill’s team currently occupy the second spot in Group C behind Germany and only a win would suffice if they want to emerge as group winners having already sealed a top-two spot.
NI host Group C leaders Germany on October 5 and failure to beat the world champions mean they will have to settle for a playoff berth. They face Norway in Oslo three days later for their last game in Group C.
McAuley, who has scored 9 goals in 72 appearances, was forced off with a recurrence of a thigh injury during June’s qualifier victory over Azerbaijan and is now expected to start in place of Cathcart against the Germans in Belfast.
Speaking about his squad, O’Neill said: “Gareth would always be a big miss. His game time has been limited but McAuley is always one who you want in your squad.”
“Germany couldn’t be more difficult – we couldn’t have the game though at a better time and we have nothing to lose.
“After the players experienced the Euros, we want to experience a World Cup. But we have lots of work to do yet.
“Jordan Jones is quick, he’s the sort of player fans will love. It’s a great opportunity for him and he is only 22.” he added.
Northern Ireland squad:
Goalkeepers: McGovern (Norwich City), Mannus (St Johnstone), Carroll (Linfield)
Defenders: Hughes (Hearts), G McAuley (West Brom), Evans (West Brom), Brunt (West Brom), C McLaughlin (Millwall), Hodson (Rangers), A Thompson (Bradford City loan), D Lafferty (Sheffield United), Flanagan (Burton Albion)
Midfielders: Davis (Southampton), McGinn (Gwangju), Norwood (Fulham loan), C Evans (Blackburn), Ferguson (Millwall), Dallas (Leeds), Lund (Burton Albion), Paton (St Johnstone), J Jones (Kilmarnock), G Saville (Millwall)
Strikers: K Lafferty (Hearts), Magennis (Charlton), Washington (QPR), McCartan (Bradford City)