Craig Cathcart withdraws from Northern Ireland squad

Craig Cathcart has once again been forced to withdraw from Northern Ireland's squad through injury, with veteran Aaron Hughes replacing him for the World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Germany.

A groin strain saw Watford defender Cathcart miss the 0-0 draw in the Czech Republic last month and the same issue will deprive Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill of a player who featured in every minute of his country's Euro 2016 campaign this summer.

Hughes, who with 103 caps is Northern Ireland's most capped outfield player ever, will link up with O'Neill's squad in Cathcart's absence even though a post-Euros move to Indian Super League club Kerala Blasters has ensured he is yet to play since the tournament in France.

O'Neill abandoned his three centre-back system without Cathcart in Prague and a flat-back four featuring League One full-backs Shane Ferguson and Conor McLaughlin kept a clean sheet.

Along with Cathcart, Ross County striker Liam Boyce is also now unavailable to O'Neill because of a knee injury and, with Will Grigg already missing due to family reasons, Kyle Lafferty, Conor Washington and Josh Magennis are the only three strikers in the squad.

Northern Ireland face San Marino at home on Saturday before travelling to Hannover for a fixture with world champions Germany three days later.