St Patrick's Athletic European tour continues on Thursday as the Saints face IF Elfsborg of Sweden in the Borås Arena. The Inchicore men defeated JFK Olimps of Latvia 3-0 on aggregate in the First Qualifying Round but face stiffer opposition against the Swedes.
Elfsborg were Allsvenskan (Swedish Premier Division) champions in 2006 and are currently second in the division having conceded only five goals in 18 games. Saints boss John McDonnell watched Elfsborg defeat GAIS last week and told stpatsfc.com that he was impressed by what he saw.
“They look a good side, they're very disciplined and they work really really hard for each other. They play a 4-2-3-1 formation with Avdic, who is a big tall centre forward, up front on his own.
“They've a very big squad to pick from too. Svensson the midfielder didn't play in the game against GAIS but we've watched dvd's and he looks a good player.”
The Pats' squad side travelled to Sweden on Monday to prepare for the game. One of the unusual aspects of the tie is that the Swedish side play on an artificial pitch but McDonnell played down its influence on the tie.
“We'll train on this pitch this evening (Wednesday) and we'll have a better idea what it's like after that. Their equipment is provided by umbro also and we've been supplied with the specific half rubber boot / half metal boots designed for this type of surface.
“It's a FIFA approved, top of the range artificial surface and from watching the games on it, it doesn't seem as lively as you might expect.”
The Saints manager has serious concerns over the fitness of striker Glen Fitzpatrick who is rated as extremely doubtful. Other attacking options Derek O'Brien and Gary O'Neill didn't travel due to ankle and groin injuries respectively. McDonnell, speaking from Sweden, conceded that he may have to start new signing John Murphy up front.
“It doesn't look good for Fitz, he picked up a knock to his ankle early in the Drogheda game last Sunday and it flared up after the game. We might have to play Big John (Murphy) which isn't ideal as he's only just come from pre-season with Chester and isn't match fit.
“We're also missing Derek O'Brien on the left but Alan Kirby can play there and Dessie (Byrne) has done a job for us there before. Mark Quigley played against Derry for us on the left and scored a hat-trick so there are players who can come in for us and do a job.”
St Pats will be hoping the keep the tie very much alive before the return leg in Dublin on 28th August. Kick off in the Borås Arena on Thrusday evening is 6 p.m. Irish time (19.00 local). The game will be broadcast live on RTE Radio 1 LW252.
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