David Healy knows it will take a stunning comeback from Linfield to still be in the Champions League tomorrow.
hat he is also well aware of are the areas in which the Blues need to improve on from last week’s 3-1 first leg defeat away to Zalgiris Vilnius.
There must be no naivety at the back, which cost Linfield goals in Lithuania, set pieces have to be markedly better and chances need to be snapped up when they come along. Some key refereeing decisions went against them last time around, including a harsh penalty, so a break in that regard would be welcome and the manager also pointed out that the home supporters allowed into Windsor Park can play a part by putting the visitors under pressure.
Should Healy’s men pull it off against a side in the middle of their domestic season, it would be a monumental result and would see them through to a second qualifying round clash, with Hungarian champions Ferencvaros the likely opponents. Defeat, though, and the consolation prize is dropping into the Europa Conference League.
“I don’t think there will be that much difference in terms of the way we set up from last week but there may be two or three different personnel playing,” said Healy
“They are champions and are unbeaten in a while. Their squad is a mixed bag of internationals and players from other countries, so they are good players.
“I think we performed OK in Lithuania but we can perform a lot better and keep the ball a lot better. There was a wee bit of naivety for their first goal when we were more than a match for them at that stage.
“The penalty was a poor one, we still don’t think it should have been awarded but they say these things even themselves up, so it would be nice to get a soft penalty somewhere along the line and we have to take our chances when they arrive.”
Healy, who has guided Linfield to four titles in five years and the league and Cup double last term, will have the influential Kirk Millar back, which will be vital from dead ball situations.
“We’ve prided ourselves on set pieces, certainly in the European run we had a couple of years ago,” said the Blues boss.
“Some of the balls in the first leg were lacking a real cutting edge but Kirk Millar will return and we all know how good his deliveries are.”
Since the first game, Linfield have added two new faces to their squad with striker Billy Chadwick and wide player Ahmed Salam arriving on loan from Grant McCann’s Hull City. Maltese striker Kyrian Nwoko is another new recruit expected to arrive from Valletta yet when quizzed on whether his business was over for the summer, Healy’s response was an interesting one.
“I don’t know where the talk about ‘the Maltese guy’ comes from. One thing I try to pride myself on as a manager is that I try to do a lot of our business behind closed doors, so it was a surprise to see that one out,” he said.
“I was disappointed, because that will cost us somewhere down the line with a player we really want to sign. Things should not be leaking out from a club of Linfield’s stature, so that is disappointing.”
Tonight will be the first time since December that there will be Linfield supporters at Windsor. Up to 1000 can attend and Healy’s message to them was: “The fans are a huge part of the club. Linfield fans over the years have enjoyed our success and I know they would have loved to have been at our games last season when we were so successful, though a minority got to the Irish Cup final (at Mourneview Park).
“In general, they are great to have and the ones that will turn up at Windsor need to get right behind the players and our team and try and put a bit of pressure on the Lithuanians and see where that gets us.”