Belfast Telegraph

Linfield underdogs hope to show bite against Swedes

By Graham Luney

Linfield are hoping the underdogs will bite at Mourneview Park tonight.

The Blues' European adventure resumes in Lurgan against Swedish side AIK Solna (7.45pm) but a considerable dose of pressure has been lifted from the players' shoulders.

When boss Warren Feeney took his troops to mid-Ulster earlier this month, the heat was on him and his men.

Leading 2-1 from a first leg clash against B36 Torshavn, the Windsor Park side were expected to finish the job against the Faroe Islands outfit.

But it proved to be a tense and nervy night with a 1-1 stalemate edging the Blues into the second qualifying round of the Europa League.

Despite being some way behind their rivals with regard to match fitness, Linfield demonstrated the character and fighting spirit Irish League sides must display in Europe to progress.

And now their reward is two showdowns against classy AIK Solna.

The slick Swedes will pose a much more dangerous threat but they go into the game as firm favourites, allowing Linfield the opportunity to punish any complacency among the visitors.

Whatever happens over the two legs, former Northern Ireland striker Feeney knows his boys have already made progress.

"It was a great achievement for us to get through a round in Europe given the difference in fitness levels between the sides," said Feeney.

"Hopefully the boys will now express themselves against a very good outfit.

"The players are enjoying training and are playing for the shirt which is what I expect.

"There are times when you have to sustain pressure, keep your shape and hang on but we did that well in the last round.

"This team are the firm favourites so the pressure is on them."

Sean Ward re-joins the squad in a timely boost for the Blues.

At times during the match against Torshavn, the Linfield defence was stretched and communication could have been better at key moments.

But the European matches have given Feeney an opportunity to iron out any weaknesses in the performance.

The match will represent Linfield's 100th game in European competition so the players will be determined to mark the milestone in style.

"We know it will be a hugely difficult challenge, as they are currently top of their league and have notched up a couple of impressive 3-0 wins recently," added Feeney.

"They are a quality side but I'm confident we can cause them problems."

Linfield supporters will be accommodated in the Glenfield Road stand where Blues supporters are normally situated for away games with Glenavon.

Visiting supporters from Sweden will be accommodated in the home end of Mourneview Park.

Supporters are encouraged to arrive in good time for this game, as there will be searches prior to admission at the turnstiles.

Admission will be by cash payment at the turnstiles – £10 adult and £7 concession.

Belfast Telegraph


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