Belfast Telegraph

La Fiorita boss out to crush Linfield's hopes of a dream clash with Celtic

By Steven Beacom

La Fiorita manager Nicola Berardi has outlined his fierce desire to prevent Linfield's big-money Champions League match against Celtic, insisting the San Marino minnows are ready to set up their own dream tie with the Glasgow giants.

Berardi was pleased with how his players performed in their away leg of the opening qualifying round clash at Windsor Park last week when Linfield won 1-0 thanks to a stunning 89th-minute goal from substitute Jordan Stewart.

The Blues could have scored a few more but the San Marino side missed opportunities themselves and believe they have a genuine chance of causing an upset in the return leg tomorrow.

The carrot dangling before both Linfield and La Fiorita is a two-legged affair with Brendan Rodgers' Invincibles.

Ahead of the second leg, Berardi gave an indication of how his team will approach the game against David Healy's Irish League champions.

"We need to play like the first game was 0-0. At home we are strong and we will try to score. The real problem is to stop Linfield's attack," said Berardi.

"I'm confident that my players will approach the game well. For us, the game in Belfast was great. We know that Linfield are better than us but we tried to play at the same level and it was a good match."

On the possibility of facing the Parkhead outfit, Berardi added: "Before that we have to face Linfield, but for La Fiorita it would be a dream to play Celtic and we will give it our best. We are feeling good about the game."

The Blues may have the advantage and crucially did not concede an away goal, but Northern Ireland's record goalscorer Healy is not taking anything for granted.

He has been around the block long enough both in club and international football to know that while Linfield are favourites to meet Celtic in the next round, shocks can happen.

"I played against San Marino home and away as an international and one thing I'm sure La Fiorita will do - like their national team - is they won't change their tactics just because they are 1-0 down," said the Linfield boss.

"They showed at Windsor Park that they have good players and a little bit of experience about them.

"I know we are expected to go through and I hope that's the way it turns out to be but I've been involved in football long enough to know that when you play so-called lesser sides it can be tough. Like us, La Fiorita won their league title and deserve to be competing in the Champions League. It won't be easy but we are going there in positive mood."

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