O'Neill ready for test of progress
Michael O'Neill has told his Northern Ireland side Tuesday night's match in Luxembourg is a better test of their progress than last week's near miss against Portugal.
O'Neill's side were 2-1 up against the highly rated Portuguese at Windsor Park until two second-half red cards allowed Cristiano Ronaldo to take control with a 15-minute hat-trick.
But while that disappointment is still fresh, O'Neill sees the World Cup qualifier at Stade Josy Barthel as an even more important challenge.
Northern Ireland have a proud history of punching above their weight against some of Europe's top teams but have often struggled to see off the relative minnows.
Luxembourg left Belfast with a fortunate 1-1 draw a year ago and a repeat performance would be a deep disappointment.
"We've said to the players that Portugal was our bonus ball. To be honest, the three points we really needed was in this game," said O'Neill.
"The Portugal game was fantastic in terms of positives, and it was hugely disappointing from a winning position to lose the game, but if I'd been given the choice of taking four points I would have rather drawn with Portugal and beaten Luxembourg than the other way around.
"They come into this game with everything to gain. It's similar to us when we go and play Russia and Portugal - they will look at players like Steven Davis and Jonny Evans playing in the Premier League as a big thing.
"It's a big occasion for their players so they will think it's nice to take a big scalp and play against players at this level and come away with a result.
"It is imperative that we take points."
Kyle Lafferty will not be around to help, having been given a straight red card for a reckless lunge against Portugal.
The Palermo striker went into the current campaign as the side's undisputed first-choice but if, as expected, he is suspended for the final double-header next month, he will leave it with plenty of ground to make up.
Martin Paterson and Jamie Ward have both excelled in the last two matches and O'Neill's withering assessment of Lafferty's output over the last 18 months was telling.
"The reality is that he misses this game suspended and I'd say he'll miss the next two as well, that wouldn't surprise me," said O'Neill.
"We will address it after that. I had a good conversation with Kyle and was very apologetic and recognises he has let his team-mates down.
"I would never say I would wash my hands of him or anything like that because he is still a player who can potentially be a big asset to the squad.
"But at this minute in time he is not giving us very much and he knows that.
"After quite a good start to the campaign he has contributed very little and he knows he won't have contributed very much in the second half of the campaign."