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O'Neill aware of tough challenge

Shamrock manager Michael O'Neill is expecting a difficult challenge in their Europa League Group A clash against Tottenham on Thursday night - regardless of what team the London club name.

The Hoops face Tottenham at White Hart Lane in their second match of their groundbreaking Europa League campaign as they look to bounce back from a humbling 3-0 loss against Rubin Kazan. With Harry Redknapp admitting he has an eye on the north London derby against Arsenal at the weekend, many expect the Spurs boss to field a weakened side.

Despite the likelihood of the Irish champions facing some of Tottenham's squad players, O'Neill believes they will still be underdogs come kick-off, and he said: "We saw in the opening Europa League game some of their younger players being blooded and they gave an excellent account of themselves."

He added: "Whilst we are unsure of what we will face personnel-wise, there will probably be a sprinkling of experienced players mixed with some of the younger players they have here.

"Tottenham are building a Champions League squad here, that is what it is. When you have that level of ambition and that level of commitment you have to have a player of that calibre."

O'Neill, who had two spells as a player in England, was under no illusions as to which game Redknapp would deem the bigger for his club.

"I think he (Redknapp) has been honest, the Arsenal game is a bigger game for Tottenham. I would expect their focus will be on that game but Tottenham have a good enough and large enough squad to deal with two games in that period of time," he said.

O'Neill will give goalkeeper Ryan Thompson every chance to prove his fitness ahead of the clash.

Thompson has been first choice for O'Neill during their earlier European encounters but he insisted the form of Richard Brush, the other goalkeeper on the Hoops' books, means even if Thompson does not make it he will have a more-than-able deputy.

Craig Sives has also been passed fit to play after groin trouble and the majority of the squad is available with only striker Gary O'Neill ruled out with a thigh injury.


From Belfast Telegraph