Middlesbrough boss Neil Warnock has warned of an impending injury “catastrophe” as a result of the forthcoming international schedule.
Boro duo Paddy McNair and George Saville will meet up with the Northern Ireland squad after Saturday’s Sky Bet Championship clash with Barnsley with a Euro 2020 play-off semi-final against Bosnia and Herzegovina and Nations League clashes with Austria and Norway ahead of them.
Warnock is concerned at the gruelling schedule they and their international colleagues will face as UEFA attempts to accommodate a fixture programme which has been complicated by the coronavirus pandemic.
He said: “You look at our Northern Irish lads and they go away at the weekend and meet up, then they travel to Bosnia on the Thursday and play on a Thursday night; they come home and play on a Sunday against Austria, I think it is, in Ireland and they travel to Norway to play on a Wednesday night.
“They get back to Belfast at 2.15am on Thursday morning. Goodness knows what time they get to a hotel and get to bed, probably 4am? And then they’re going to come back and play Reading on Saturday.
“There are going to be some problems in the next few months for us. We’re all going to have to have a look a how we can help players out, otherwise it’s going to be a catastrophe with injuries.”
Northern Ireland play Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo on Thursday, October 8 – the winners will meet either Slovakia or the Republic of Ireland in next month’s final – before they welcome the Austrians to Windsor Park three days later and then head for Oslo.