Candystripes are ready to take step into the unknown
Derry City will hope to extend their impressive European record at the Brandywell when they face Shakhtyor Soligorsk this evening. The Belarusians are an unknown entity for Peter Hutton and his players, making them a dangerous opponent for the high-flying Candystripes.
Derry are currently on a run of seven games unbeaten and have won their last four games without conceding a goal. On top of that they have a superb European record at home, having faced IFK Gothenburg, Gretna, Paris St Germain, FC Pyunik, Skonto Riga, CSKA Sofia and Aberystwyth without losing in the past nine seasons.
Only Trabzonspor have won at the Brandywell in that time.
City cruised through to the second qualifying stage of the Europa League with a 9-0 aggregate win over Welsh side Aberystwyth but Soligorsk are expected to be a much tougher opponent.
Patrick McEleney, who has been one of the stars behind Derry City's recent run of form, insists it will be far from straightforward.
"They are going to be better than Aberystwyth," McEleney insisted. "From what I hear they are more experienced and they keep the ball well and they are going to probably be the best opposition we'll play all year.
"But we'll look forward to it and we'll give it a right go. We have nothing to lose and hopefully we can take it on to Belarus.
"We feel we can beat them, definitely. They will be decent but it's hard to really know because it is going into the unknown a bit.
"We know they are experienced and they don't concede many and they can nick goals. We'll just go out and play and hopefully there's a big crowd.
"Everyone knows that if there's a big crowd at the Brandywell it can lift the players and it could give us that extra 10% we need to get the job done."
City defender Dean Jarvis will miss tonight's game due to a foot injury picked up in the weekend win over Bray Wanderers but captain Cliff Byrne is back, as is fellow centre-half Ryan McBride.
Newcomer Stephen Dooley, who scored on his debut against Bray on Sunday, is also available for selection.