Sanchez says Davis could emulate Lampard

The 20-year-old Aston Villa midfielder has become a regular in the side and seems certain to start against Austria tonight in a World Cup qualifier.

With four goals for his club this season, Davis is in a good run of scoring form, just like Lampard.

The Northern Ireland coach, Lawrie Sanchez, believes his young player has a tremendous future ahead of him. He said: "I told Steve when he came into the team that good midfield players - and there are a lot in the Premiership - can score goals. You've got Frank Lampard as a prime example. Any manager will tell you that if a midfield player can weigh in with 10 goals he will usually get the nod over others.

"Steve's mindset is on scoring and he is a good striker of the ball. I think he can go as high as he wants to go in the game and be another Frank Lampard."

Northern Ireland will finish third in Group Six should they defeat Austria in their final game. Sanchez believes their hosts will be out to salvage some lost pride after failing to put enough pressure on England and Poland and failing to qualify by some distance.

"The Austrians will want to hold on to third place," he said. "They thought England would be the top team and it would be between them and Poland for second place. But Austria are nowhere near Poland and that's left them bitterly disappointed. They certainly won't want to finish fourth."

The Birmingham City goalkeeper Maik Taylor, 34, will captain the side and win his 50th cap in the process as Aaron Hughes remains out after a hernia operation.

Sanchez, who was full of praise for Taylor, said: "Northern Ireland have had some great goalkeepers like Harry Gregg and Pat Jennings. Maik deserves to be included in that bracket."

Chris Baird returns after suspension while Tony Capaldi drops out. Damien Johnson is expected to be fit enough to play.

Northern Ireland (probable): Taylor (Birmingham); Duff (Burnley), Craigan (Motherwell), Murdock (Rotherham), Baird (Southampton), Gillespie (Sheff Utd), Johnson (Birmingham), Davis (Aston Villa), Elliott (Hull), Healy (Leeds), Quinn (Peterborough).

l John Toshack, the Wales coach who is preparing for tonight's final World Cup Group Six qualifier in Cardiff against Azerbaijan, will almost certainly have James Collins recovered from a dislocated shoulder with Danny Gabbidon returning from suspension. Whether the Ipswich goalkeeper Lewis Price is given his international debut depends on his recovery from a back problem - Paul Jones stands by.

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