Bradley clinging to hope as Rovers face uphill task in Sweden
Derry too facing a difficult assignment but Dundalk best-placed of Irish clubs to advance
Stephen Bradley: “We’re away to a good side who obviously have the advantage. But we believe we can cause them problems, like we did at home.” Photograph: Oisín Keniry/Inpho
Believing, as he did in the first leg in Dublin, that his side can ask questions of Swedish opponents AIK, Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley wants his players to now show a more clinical edge as they look to overturn a 1-0 deficit in the Europa League in Stockholm’s Friends Arena this evening.
A brief lapse in concentration cost Rovers the first leg at Tallaght Stadium as Daniel Sundgren provided that composed finish the League of Ireland side lacked to give the unbeaten Allsvenskan leaders a narrow, though deserved win.
“We believe we can go and cause them problems like we did [in Dublin],” said Bradley. “We believed we could score at home and nothing has changed. I don’t think we surprised them in the first leg. They watched us in our three previous games. I think they fully understood that they were playing a decent side.”
Bradley accepts it’s a tall order against a team that fielded eight senior internationals last week.
AIK have since added midfielder Sebastian Larsson, who made his 104th appearance for Sweden against England in the World Cup quarter-final in Russia, though he’s not registered to play tonight.
“We’re up against it. You can’t say anything different,” said Bradley. “We’re away to play a good side who obviously have the advantage. But, as I said, we believe we can cause them problems, like we did at home.
“We just need to be more ruthless in the final third and believe we can score,” added Bradley who remains without injured midfielder Brandon Miele and striker Sean Boyd.
Having lost their first leg 2-0, Derry City face perhaps the biggest task of the night for the domestic sides away to Belarusians Dinamo Minsk.
“Their early goal in the first leg was a massive blow, but we fought back well after that,” said Derry manager Kenny Shiels of conceding inside the opening minutes at the Brandywell.
“There’s no point in going out there gung-ho and leaving ourselves too open, but we do need to show more intent in the final third. We need to stay in the tie as long as we can because if we do that and can nick one ourselves, that would certainly ask questions.”
Derry are without injured midfielder Nicky Low while right-back Conor McDermott, sent off in the first leg, is suspended.
Greatly in-form Dundalk provide the realistic hope of any Irish side making it through as Dylan Connolly’s solitary goal from their first leg in Tallinn gives them a major advantage in their return with FC Levadia at Oriel Park.
Midfielders Stephen O’Donnell and John Mountney, along with defender Stephen Folan, remain out injured for Stephen Kenny’s league leaders.
“We won’t be underestimating them,” said Kenny of the Estonian side. “There’s still very much a game to be won. We have to go and do ourselves justice and put in a performance to win another European game.
“European nights can be special. We want to create special nights here. We want to make new history. You have to have the determination to do that. It is one step at a time for us. We’re not looking beyond [tonight], we have to fight hard to get the result and come through.”
AIK (1) v Shamrock Rovers (0), live on eirsport1, 6.0
Dinamo Minsk (2) v Derry City (0), 4.0
Dundalk (1) v FC Levadia (0), 7.45