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Linfield are in hot pursuit of Europa League group stage, insists Mulgrew

Skipper admits Blues striving to make up for last year's Euro play-off heartache

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Linfield captain Jamie Mulgrew

Linfield captain Jamie Mulgrew

Linfield captain Jamie Mulgrew

Linfield skipper Jamie Mulgrew has revealed the ultimate goal for the club in Europe this season is to try and go one round further than last campaign and qualify for the group stages of the Europa League.

The Blues host Maltese side Floriana in a one-leg shoot-out on Thursday in the second qualifying round and if they win they would play Estonia's Flora Tallinn or Icelandic team KR Reykjavik at Windsor Park on September 24. Victory in that tie would set up a play-off clash to make the group phase.

And the Blues would have experience of what is required having been unlucky to lose on away goals against Qarabag from Azerbaijan in last year's play-off round.

Linfield legend Mulgrew is not one to take any team for granted and has respect for this week's opponents, but he also believes there is nothing wrong with the Irish League champions setting their sights high.

"We are hungry and determined to try and go one further because of what happened last season," explained Mulgrew.

"It was an incredible journey last time and this is an opportunity for us to make another impact in Europe.

"It is a very, very tough ask to make the group stages but there is no harm in trying to set a goal like that.

"Expectation in Europe has risen because of how well we did last year. It is up to us to manage those expectations.

"There are no mugs in Europe no matter who you play and we'll respect Floriana but it is a home tie and a good opportunity to progress."

Mulgrew adds that Coleraine have the quality to shock Stephen Robinson's Motherwell in their second qualifying round clash at the Showgrounds.

"The Irish League is a different beast now in Europe," stated the Linfield midfielder.

"Last year all the clubs who qualified had wins and we took it on to almost reach the group stages and this season Coleraine, Glentoran and ourselves have won ties and Linfield and Coleraine have progressed to this stage.

"If I was with Motherwell I wouldn't be taking their game lightly because Coleraine are more than capable of winning that match."

Belfast Telegraph