Fair play winners UCD fear it might get ugly at Belfield

Students entertain F91 Dudelange of Luxembourg in first leg

UCD’s Chris Mulhall who will be in action etc Photograph: Inpho

UCD’s Chris Mulhall who will be in action etc Photograph: Inpho

 

Landing their place in the competition was a long shot in itself, but

UCD must battle the odds again to keep themselves in the Europa League at Belfield tonight.

F91 Dudelange are scarcely a household name, but their dominance in Luxembourg over the past decade and a half, as well the presence of so much experience in their squad, makes them a daunting enough challenge for the first division students.

They’re big, strong and physical,” says UCD manager Collie O’Neill, “and their experience is something we might struggle with, but they have weaknesses too, we think, and our lads know what they should be doing.”

O’Neill has an unchanged squad and a belief in his young side’s ability to “move the ball quickly going forward, drag the visitors’ defenders into places they don’t want to go and then exploit the space that’s left behind”.

Hard work for students

It sounds simple, but against a side that includes several of the international side as well as a handful of imports with decent CVs, it seems the students have their work cut out if they are to make it three home games in Europe without defeat.

“Yeah, I was looking at [Daniel] da Mota’s goal against Portugal, and it’s clear they have some quality, although they’re not what you might imagine when you think of European football. My hunch is that it will be an ugly enough game of football,” says O’Neill.

UCD’s bid for promotion has been hampered so far by too many draws, such as Friday’s in Cobh, caused by too many soft goals conceded. O’Neill realises that his players will have to cut out those errors. But the campaign so far has been ideal preparation in its way, he says, as “the football in the First Division is pretty ugly too”.

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