Northern Ireland are close to qualifying for a European Championships for the first time, but have to contend with injuries and suspensions. The good news, says manager Michael O'Neill, is that it gives opportunities to players who have waited a long time.

West Bromwich Albion defender Jonny Evans will miss the Group F leader's Euro 2016 qualifier at home to Greece on 8 October through injury. The former Manchester United player limped off during his club's Premier League defeat by Crystal Palace on 3 October, but could return for Northern Ireland's final group match in Finland on 11 October.

Also, three key men are suspended: Norwich City forward Kyle Lafferty; Derby County defender Chris Baird; and Fleetwood Town right-back Conor McLaughlin. Kilmarnock forward Josh Magennis could make his first competitive start as a replacement for Lafferty, while Watford's Craig Cathcart and Manchester United's Paddy McNair are also believed to be in line to start.

Northern Ireland are one point ahead of second-placed Romania and will go through if they take two points from the remaining games with Greece, who are bottom, and fourth-placed Finland.

O'Neill told a news conference in Belfast on Wednesday: "You know, one thing I have noticed, particularly in those three days, maybe more so than in the past, is that the squad is stronger now than I think it has been, certainly at any time, in the time that I have been in charge.

"And I genuinely believe that we have the players to step in and deal with this game, in terms of dealing with the situation that Jonny's not available, but also dealing with the suspensions that we have as well and you know, there's players that have waited a long time for the opportunity and they're going to get it in a massive game. So everyone's looking forward to the game."

Captain and midfielder Steven Davis of Southampton said the players had put themselves in a great position to make a Euro debut. "I think it's hard to sum up in words really what it would mean; we're so close, yet so far, despite this time we've put ourselves in a great position with hard work, obviously being disciplined in the games and also quality. So it's just about going out and showing that again and hopefully we can get over the line tomorrow."

Northern Ireland have never qualified for a European Championship and last reached the World Cup finals in 1986.