- Wednesday July 3rd, 2013 @ 13:16
The Saints take their first steps into European competition in 2013 as they face Lithuanian league leaders VMFD Žalgiris tomorrow evening in the Europa League first qualifying round in the LFF Stadium in Vilnius (kick-off 7.10pm Irish Time).
VMFD Žalgiris, currently six points clear of the ‘A Lyga’ championship, boast the presence of several international players in their group, including recent signing Andrius Velička whose previous clubs include Hearts of Midlothian and Glasgow Rangers in Scotland.
Pat’s however have good pedigree in European competition having progressed past the opening stage of the Europa League in their past four European campaigns.
As Saints’ defender Ger O’Brien admitted to stpatsfc.com, the Inchicore side expect to be tested by their Lithuanian opponents, but in no way fear them.
“We kind of know the opposition we’re going to be playing.
There’s nothing really to overly fear, but certainly we won’t be going over there thinking we’re going to turn up and win. We know they’re a good side.”
“I wouldn’t say they’re packed full of internationals, but they’re certainly seven or eight who have represented their countries.
They obviously are decent footballers, but so are we so hopefully we can get a good result over there and bring them back to Richmond.”
In team news Saints’ manager Liam Buckley has a full squad to pick from, as Killian Brennan comes into contention for selection having missed last Friday’s 2-0 win against Bray through suspension.
Buckley’s striking options now also include Philly Hughes who joined the club on loan from Shelbourne this week and has been registered in time to be included in Buckley’s Europa League squad.
Speaking from Luton airport in London before the squad travelled to Vilnius, Buckley outlined the challenge he expects his side will face.
“It’s great that we’ve a full squad available, and we have Philly Hughes available so that’s great news.
Žalgiris will be a tough side though. We’ve got videos of their last few games and Dave Campbell has done a lot preparation for us on what we can expect from them,” Buckley told stpatsfc.com.
“They’re a very technical side and play the ball on the ground.
The game will be played on an all-weather pitch so we’ll have to adapt to that, and the conditions are expected to be hot and around the 20° C mark.
We’ll have to cope with all these factors.
But we’ll be looking to get through to the next round so getting a result to bring back to Richmond Park is important for us.”
The Saints’ recent record in Europe has been impressive having reached the third qualifying round in each of their last three Europa League campaigns and also boast an 11 game unbeaten record in Richmond Park in Europe.
For defender O’Brien, he feels European brings out the best in all connected with the club.
“The nights last year, out in Iceland against IBV Vestmannaeyjar even though there wasn’t many people at it, or the night in Dublin against the Bosnian team Široki Brijeg, they were amazing.
It’s a great feeling. Even going to Hannover 96, unfortunately this is stuff as players we will never regularly experience, so when we do it’s something that we savour. So that gives us a little bit extra motivation.”
The Saints will train at the LFF Stadium this evening ahead of tomorrow’s game.