Belfast Telegraph

'The word Wolves is banned': Crusaders will need big Seaview support to see off B36, says Baxter

Battle ready: Stephen Baxter is primed for Euro mission
Battle ready: Stephen Baxter is primed for Euro mission

By Graham Luney

Stephen Baxter has called for a "Crusaders roar" from a big crowd at Seaview to help drive the north Belfast club closer to a glamour Europa League clash with Wolves.

B36 Torshavn also fancy a shot at the English Premier League side but the Shore Road men are slight favourites to progress in this first qualifying round clash.

Skipper Colin Coates is unavailable for tonight's first leg, which has a 6pm kick-off, but the stakes are high with prize money of €500,000 (£450,000) up for grabs and a blockbuster battle with Wolves.

Crues boss Baxter believes their Faroe Islands opponents have the quality to inflict damage should victory be taken for granted.

"They are a team I believe will be on a par with us," said Baxter. "Technically, they are very good, they pass the ball well and are well organised.

"They are a tough competitive team. This is probably the first year of European competition we can say the opponents are on a par with us regarding quality.

"The word Wolves is banned in every area of the football club, we only concentrate on the next challenge. The training and build-up is geared towards this game, you can't allow yourself to fall into the trap of thinking of what might be. You have to beat strong opposition capable of hurting you.

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"We should never take this for granted. The best achievement for us is to play in Europe and there is no prouder man than me to take this club into Europe.

"When we wear that badge and compete against other opposition, I think that's fantastic. Our former goalkeeper Brian Jensen spoke of his desire to play Champions League football when he joined us and that shows you how special it is.

"If we get a big Crusaders roar going on a summer's night, in front of a big crowd, we are hoping to create a good atmosphere which will give us that extra motivation and drive we need."

The winners of the tie will face Wolves in the next round on July 25 and August 1.

While the Irish Cup winners know they are capable of conquering B36 Torshavn, Baxter is wary of European heartbreak.

"I can remember when we played the Latvian team Liepaja in 2017," he recalled.

"We were 3-1 up but they beat us 2-0 out there with a wining goal in the 94th minute. You think you're home in a boat but in European football you just don't know. You have to be very wise and make sure we play the right way and apply pressure at the right time.

"You are playing this game over two legs and the game can't be won in the first leg. You can't go gung-ho and say let's win this in the first half hour, it takes more in how you think it through.

"They will want to stay in the tie but there's an opportunity here and we have to put our best foot forward."

B36 Torshavn boss Jakup a Borg says Crusaders are favourites but his players believe they can spring a surprise.

"Match fitness is always important, and we are fit, but we have played against Linfield twice and The New Saints," he said. "We thought we might be fitter but it doesn't work like that.

"You are always fit and play a high-tempo game. The Crusaders players are in good shape. We are underdogs against a side with a good history but we believe.

"We had a good run in Europe last year before losing to Besiktas. We know we have to perform very well to get a result and keep the tie alive."

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