Aaron Burns urges Linfield to click into a higher gear
Aaron Burns admits Linfield will have to raise their game to a much higher level if they are to stun Slovakian outfit Spartak Trnava in the Europa League tonight (7.05pm).
The Blues sneaked into the second round after a 5-4 aggregate victory over NSI Runavik but they lost the away leg 4-3 and were made to sweat in the Faroe Islands.
With Guy Bates and Andy Waterworth leading the line at the Stadion Antona Malatinskeho, goalscoring is not an issue for Warren Feeney's side but shutting out strikeforces appears to be a primary concern.
Midfielder Burns, who smashed in 20 goals last season, admits his side need to go through the gears if they want to test Spartak Trnava.
The Slovakian giants have won the Czechoslovak First League and the Czechoslovak Cup five times and even reached the semi-finals of the European Cup in 1969 and quarter-finals in 1973 and 1974.
"This side will be a significant step up in class, we all recognise that," said Burns. "They will be much stronger than Runavik but you expect that in the next round and you have to be ready.
"Full-time sides are fitter and their movement is usually better so you must be ready for the battle. If we can score over there it would give us something to bring back so the tie at Windsor is winnable."
Burns admits Linfield rode their luck in the Faroe Islands but the team are still blowing off the cobwebs of the summer.
He added: "It was job done but it was certainly hard work and you expect that in Europe.
"We know we can score goals as we have dangerous attackers but we need to start keeping them out at the other end too.
"If we don't do that we will find ourselves in tricky situations and make life difficult for ourselves. The important thing is we are still fighting in Europe and there's no getting away from the fact we are still in pre-season and it will show. There's no excuse for a bad team performance but it will take time for fitness levels to improve.
"The fact that we have progressed in Europe for four years running is a great achievement."
Linfield fans are excited by the Bates-Waterworth partnership and Burns added: "There are partnerships taking shape all over the pitch including David Kee and Stephen Lowry in midfield but we are all hoping Guy and Andy can hit it off.
"It's important that when the league starts we are ready."
Linfield's talented winger Ross Clarke has attracted the attention of several cross-channel clubs with Tommy Wright's St Johnstone ready to swoop but Burns added: "Every time I ask Ross what he's up to he doesn't seem to know but he's a very talented player and I hope he gets a chance across the water as he deserves it. I hope he stays, of course, as he's a quality player but it's no surprise that clubs are looking at him."
Blues boss Feeney admitted: "They are going to be the favourites as they have internationals in their side. If we stick to our gameplan we think we can achieve a positive result."