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Linfield boss David Healy hopes to home in on a big Euro result against Zurich at Windsor Park

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David Healy believes it is key that Linfield keep up their formidable home record for the visit of FC Zürich

David Healy believes it is key that Linfield keep up their formidable home record for the visit of FC Zürich

David Healy believes it is key that Linfield keep up their formidable home record for the visit of FC Zürich

Linfield boss David Healy believes his side are ready to roar again in Europe after their mauling at the hands of Bodø/Glimt.

The Blues travelled with high hopes following their stunning 1-0 win at Windsor Park over the Norwegian champions, but the script was ripped up and tossed away as the ruthless hosts stormed to an 8-0 victory.

Linfield, who lost first leg goalscoring hero Kirk Millar to an early red card, are now in the third qualifying stage of the Europa League where FC Zürich act as the next hurdle.

The Swiss title-holders are in Belfast for the first leg tonight (7.45pm) and the winners know they will face Hearts in the play-offs while securing at least a group stage place in the Europa Conference League.

The loser will face the unseeded winner of the Europa Conference tie between RFS (Latvia) and Hibernians (Malta).

Amid fears of mental resonance and dented confidence, Healy is confident his troops will be back on fighting form for another huge test.

“We have been in the mire before at times, and faced up to challenges and questions thrown at us,” he said.

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“None of those challenges have come to fruition yet. We keep hearing about people wanting to knock Linfield off their perch but we haven’t seen that domestically yet.

“Has confidence been dented? That’s always possible when you lose a game.

“First and foremost we went out of a competition we wanted to stay in and after our first leg performance we had hope, but sometimes you have to recognise the level you are facing and be realistic.

“These teams do not let you off the hook. When they have you by the throat they go for what they can.

“Credit to Bodø. Myself and my staff acknowledged their ruthlessness to damage us when we were already on the floor.

“It’s something we have been trying to do as a club and I want us to be better at burying teams, letting them know that we are better than them. Bodø did that very well (against us) last week.”

Healy knew his men faced a formidable challenge against the Scandinavian stars but he is not quite sure what to expect from FC Zürich.

With new manager Franco Foda trying to implement his ideas and an uninspiring start to their title defence, taking just one point from their first three matches, there is perhaps reason for the Blues to be encouraged.

“When you look at the level of opposition, people will ask are Zürich as good as Bodø?” explained Northern Ireland’s record goalscorer.

“I don’t know but they have a very experienced manager, an ex-player who is new to the job after the previous manager (André Breitenreiter) went to Hoffenheim.

“He’s probably in the early stages of what he wants to achieve, personnel has changed from the league to Europe and they are harder to predict.

“With Bodø we knew who most of the starting eleven would be. What Zürich do have are experienced players and winners, champions of Switzerland and if Northern Ireland were playing the Swiss or Norway we would be underdogs.

“Some of the Swiss and Norwegian teams have been in Champions League and Europa League group stages over the years. We know the levels we are up against.”

Linfield may be a little bruised from their adventures in Norway but one thing that hasn’t changed is their mindset and swagger at Windsor Park.

“We pride ourselves on our home record, we never lost or were behind in a game last season,” continued Healy.

“We had a strong home record the season before and European games here come with a big atmosphere.

“The players still have to deliver a performance and I’ve no doubt with the players we have that we still feel these are bonus games after beating TNS in the first round.

“I’m not keen to draw a line under the game in Norway, we have already done that. The game transpired against us in terms of the early goal and sending-off.

“It’s something we had talked about, when you have a worst-case scenario and find yourself 1-0 down and down to 10 men and they score, it couldn’t have been any worse.

“There are a few negatives but also positives over the two legs. Some people and clubs play for 10 or 20 years in European football and don’t win a European game. We have won two from two at Windsor and not conceded a goal.

“We played an improving team in Bodø, who have dismantled bigger teams and managers than what we are over the last few years, and their stock is rising.

“Of course it is disappointing to lose the game but there is no point in feeling sorry for ourselves.

“The deeper you go into competitions, chances are you will come up against a tougher opponent and we found that out last week against Bodø.”

Linfield defender Daniel Finlayson is also relishing another chance to seal a historic group stage place for the club.

“We are very much looking forward to the game after a disappointing match last week,” he said.

“But we can take a lot of positives from the last tie as we beat them at home, which shows we are a good side at home and can take on anyone.

“The boys are right up for it and we are fully expecting to go out and get a result.”


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