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O'Neill: Rovers ready for Euro test

Michael O'Neill has warned Russian aristocrats Rubin Kazan his Shamrock Rovers team has not just come along for the Europa League ride.

Rubin head for Tallaght Stadium on Thursday night still smarting from their exit from the Champions League at the hands of Lyon, but with high hopes of European glory.

However, they will step into the unknown as they take on the Irish champions in he first game of the group stage.

Rovers became the first Irish club team to reach this stage of a UEFA competition when they defied to odds with a 2-1 extra-time victory at Serbian giants Partizan Belgrade in the final qualifying round, after drawing 1-1 in the first game in Dublin.

O'Neill admits the chances of his side emerging from the group are slim, but he insists they have to be optimistic.

He said: "We have to be realistic about this. It would be an enormous achievement for a club like us to progress out of the group stage.

"I would imagine that from a financial viewpoint, we are possibly the club with the smallest budget that has ever competed in the group stage of a European competition. Money, unfortunately, is a big factor in football, particularly in European football with player acquisition and everything that goes along with that.

"What we have proved to date is that with good organisation, good application from the players and good players, it is possible for us to get to the stage we are at now. Whilst we would never say we are just here to fulfil the fixtures, we have to be realistic.

"To come out of the group would be an enormous achievement. I am not going to that's not possible, but I am equally not going to say that it's something I think the squad is capable of either.

"People have to recognise the achievements of the players for what they have done so far without burdening them with other expectation."


From Belfast Telegraph