Belfast Telegraph

Chasing the European dream is my favourite part of the season, says Crusaders star Snoddy

 

By Steven Beacom

Crusaders ace Matthew Snoddy loves nothing better than taking on top class European opposition - and tonight's Champions League tie with Ludogorets will be no different.

The Irish League's top dogs kick off the opening qualifying round clash as big underdogs against a side who have made a positive impact in Europe in recent times.

Over the past five years, the Bulgarians have played against some of the biggest hitters in the Champions League and drawn matches with the likes of Liverpool and Paris St Germain. They will see the contest with Crusaders as a means to an end as their aim every year now is to reach the group stages of the biggest club competition around.

For the Crues, it is an opportunity to test themselves versus one of the best sides in this stage of the draw safe in the knowledge that, under new Uefa rules, defeat will see Stephen Baxter's men drop into the Europa League, giving the north Belfast outfit two cracks at the continental cherry and a minimum of £800,000 in prize money.

Snoddy, with his energy and desire, will be a key player for Baxter in Europe.

The midfielder said: "This is my favourite time of the year, I love playing in Europe," said.

"We have to be realistic with our draw because Ludogorets are a top team.

"They drew with Liverpool in recent years so we know it will be very tough.

"There will be a lot of times, especially in this opening leg in Bulgaria, when we won't have the ball and will have to work really hard.

"I think the match we had with Motherwell was a good warm up game because, like Ludogorets, they are a very good side and made us work very hard off the ball when they were in possession.

"The boys love playing in Europe and hopefully we can produce another strong performance."

Skipper Colin Coates and defender Sean Ward will miss the game as they are on holiday.

Crusaders have handed new deals to 22 of their players as part of a new full-time set-up.

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