Belfast Telegraph

Why Linfield are keen to cause havoc with early season fixture list

Double booked: David Healy would like to see Blues’ clash with Ballymena postponed as it would mean they are on Euro duty
Double booked: David Healy would like to see Blues’ clash with Ballymena postponed as it would mean they are on Euro duty

By Steven Beacom

Disruption to domestic fixtures would normally be frustrating for Irish League champions Linfield, but if it happens early on in the Danske Bank Premiership this season the Blues won't mind one bit.

That's because should their trip to last season's runners-up Ballymena United on August 13 be postponed, it will be down to David Healy's team still being in Europe.

Come Thursday night, they may be the last Irish League side standing in continental competition.

Ballymena and Cliftonville were knocked out of the Europa League at the first qualifying round stage having won through the preliminary phase and Crusaders are up against it in the second qualifying round, trailing 2-0 from the first leg to Premier League team Wolves.

Linfield are in a stronger position to progress but, as Healy points out, his side still have a lot of work to do.

The Blues will enter Thursday's return leg at Windsor Park level after last week's 2-2 draw against HB Torshavn in the Faroe Islands.

The headline makers for the Blues were Andy Waterworth, whose two goals saw him leap to the top of the club's European goalscoring list with six, and goalkeeper Rohan Ferguson, who had an excellent debut having arrived from Motherwell on loan.

What won't have escaped Healy's attention is that for long periods HB Torshavn were the more dominant team.

"They showed they are a good side and they play in a physical way, which we have to deal with," said Healy. "People will think after a 2-2 draw away we are in a strong position for the second leg at Windsor but I know it will be another tough game and the players will need to dig deep."

Tonight, the Blues, who dropped into the Europa League after being beaten in the Champions League by Rosenborg, will know who they would face in the third qualifying round.

Whoever loses in the Champions League clash between FK Sutjeska (Montenegro) and Cypriot side Apoel Nicosia are the next potential opponents.

The likely scenario is taking on Sutjeska, who kick-off this evening's second leg in Cyprus trailing 1-0 from the first leg.

Linfield are scheduled to travel away for the first leg on Tuesday, August 6, just four days before they start their Premiership campaign at home to Institute. The Blues have announced the second leg is set for Windsor on August 13, the same date as they are due to play David Jeffrey's Ballymena at the Showgrounds.

Just two games into the league season it would be fascinating to see how last term's top two match up, but fans of both clubs may have to wait a little longer to see Healy v Jeffrey for the first time in the 2019-20 campaign.

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