Michael O’Neill says Northern Ireland must treat their two upcoming games against the Netherlands as a “play-off” to reach Euro 2020.
The two nations meet in Rotterdam on Thursday, live on Sky Sports, before the Dutch travel to Belfast for the reverse fixture on November 16.
Northern Ireland are three points ahead of the Netherlands in Group C, having played one game more in qualifying.
Germany top the group with a superior goal difference to Northern Ireland and O’Neill believes his side are now fighting for second place behind the three-time European champions.
When asked where a win over the Netherlands would rank in Northern Irish football history, O’Neill said: “We’re under no illusions how difficult the game will be [but] I don’t kind of categorise achievements in that way.
“We are in a situation where, having spoken to the players, we are essentially in a play-off situation with Holland. We need to get four points out of that.
“They have a stronger position in that play-off because they got three points against Germany. That’s the way we are going to have to approach this game and the game in Belfast.
“That’s the job that’s in front of us. It’s not an easy task by any means but we know to give ourselves a chance in terms of automatic qualification, we have to try to take something from the game on Thursday night.”
The Netherlands failed to qualify for Euro 2016, as well as the 2018 World Cup in Russia, and O’Neill believes the current Dutch squad are under huge pressure to avoid another embarrassment.
“The most important thing is that we’ll stay in the game and make it as difficult as we can for the Netherlands,” he said.
“By doing that you’ll hopefully create a little bit of doubt because it would be a big thing for Holland if they went three tournaments without qualification.
“There is a lot of expectation on this group of players. They are relatively young, I think Daley Blind is the most experienced player in the squad.
“We have to create a situation where the game is difficult, not only physically for Holland, but mentally as well.”