Belfast Telegraph

Linfield must approach Rosenborg test with confidence, urges captain Mulgrew


In control: Jamie Mulgrew pulling the strings during Linfield’s friendly against St Johnstone
In control: Jamie Mulgrew pulling the strings during Linfield’s friendly against St Johnstone

By Alex Mills

Midfield powerhouse Jamie Mulgrew believes Linfield will approach tonight's Champions League first qualifying round first leg clash with Rosenborg at Windsor Park in the best possible shape.

Although David Healy's boys have lost three pre-season friendly games against full-time opposition - Dinamo Bucharest, Motherwell and St Johnstone - Mulgrew reckons the Danske Bank Premiership champions will meet the challenge head on.

He also knows a thing or two about Rosenborg. Mulgrew is the only current member of the Linfield squad that faced the Norwegian side almost a decade ago in the Champions League.

Having held Rosenborg to a scoreless draw at Windsor Park back in 2010, they were edged out 2-0 in the return leg.

Even though the Blues go into the game as big underdogs, Mulgrew insists they may have a trick or two up their sleeve as boss Healy has been doing his homework on their opponents.

"The way social media is, we can get information on teams a lot easier," said Mulgrew. "David has been feeding us information on Rosenborg, but we know all about them. They are a quality side.

"We all realise they are a couple of levels above us, and I'm sure it will be a backs-to-the-wall job for us at times.

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"I played against Rosenborg a few years ago. We achieved a good result against them at Windsor Park, and we didn't disgrace ourselves out in Norway either. I remember the games well.

"The Champions League is always difficult, no matter what round you are in. We are under no illusions how difficult it will be. But we approach the game in good shape.

"It's our reward for having a great season, winning two trophies, and we want to make the most of it. We have got to be confident in ourselves.

"We know our capabilities and we've worked hard in training in the build-up - we'll be well organised and disciplined."

After a tough pre-season schedule, which included a training camp in Spain, Mulgrew reckons it will stand the Blues in good stead for Europe and beyond.

He said: "Since I've been at Linfield, this is the best pre-season I've had in terms of preparation and detail. Yes, we are focused on the European games, but work over the past three or four weeks will be the platform for the start of the Irish League campaign.

"We did a lot of work in Spain, training twice a day, which would be equivalent to a couple of weeks back home. We packed a lot into five days. And the key component for me was the bonding we got out of it. A lot of people don't think of it that way, but from a personal point, being away on the trip, I thought it was fantastic for us.

"It also gave us the chance to train in high temperatures. It's something we, part-time players, had never experienced before.

"Credit must go to the club for setting up and organising the training camp for giving us the chance to prepare the best way we can. It was a huge success.

"We had a behind-closed-doors game against Dinamo Bucharest and we then had two tough games against Motherwell and St Johnstone.

"We are now guaranteed four tough competitive European ties, so preparation and our fitness levels going into the start of the season will hopefully be tip top. We should be raring to go for the first league game.

"That's what it is all about. European games are great and the club will benefit financially, but it's good for us in pre-season terms because we are getting good competitive games."

Mulgrew insists the onus is on all Irish League clubs to gain positive results in Europe, which will hopefully win back the Europa League place that is about to be lost.

"We've a carrot dangling in front of us to try to get into the next round - try to put the club on the European map," he added. "So far, Ballymena United and Cliftonville have got great results in Europe, it will hopefully help the co-efficient because the Irish League suffered a blow recently by losing a place.

"There is no doubt the league is becoming more competitive, there are more teams vying for European slots. So, with one place gone, it's going to make things more difficult.

"That's why it's important that we all try to put the league on the map, and do as well as we can in Europe.

"The league will be even tighter this season. Add in Glentoran and Larne to last season's top six and it will probably be the most competitive in a long, long time."

Linfield vs Rosenborg

Champions League 1st Qual, Round 1st Leg: Windsor Park, Tonight, 7.45pm

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