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FC Copenhagen v Shamrock Rovers, Wednesday, 19.00 Live on Setanta 1
Shamrock Rovers will be up against it in their Champions League third round qualifier clash with Danish champions FC Copenhagen, a side who will likely forgo these qualifying stages next year should they continue their domestic dominance.
The Superliga holders are on a run of three consecutive championships and made it to the final 16 of last year’s Champions League, going down fighting against a superior Chelsea side.
Barcelona could only manage a draw on their visit to the Parken Stadium last September.
Having seen the tepid 1-0 victory Rovers managed over the two legs against FC Flora of Tallinn the locals will be licking their lips as the Hoops arrive in town.
It should be kept in mind though that Rovers are no push overs.
Though they are likely to be on the back foot for much of this affair if their defence is as organised as it was against Juventus in last year’s Europa League Copenhagen will need to work for a win.
Michael O’Neill’s side will be looking to keep the tie alive for the return leg in Tallaght next week but even so there is room to breathe as a loss at this stage means they drop into the final round of Europa League qualification.
O’Neill may well look at the underdog tag as a advantage, especially since his side are at their peak of fitness while the Danish are only beginning their season and he has players in key areas who could give Copenhagen pause for thought.
The tenacious midfielder Conor McCormack has shown the strength of tackling which will be vital in breaking up Copenhagen’s pass and move style while Ronan Finn and Gary Twigg will be relishing the opportunity to show their attacking flair on this stage.
The Danes have a formidable line up with a strong spine of Danish internationals, the solid Swedish goalkeeper Johan Wiland and a number of South American and African flair players.
The Senegalese striker Damen N’Doye in particular will cause Rovers problems, he scored 25 times in 33 appearances last season and has formed a deadly partnership with Brazilian César Santin over the last few seasons.
In midfield another Brazilian Claudemir is known for his strong engine, Delap-like throw-ins and as he showed against Barca a stinging shot – he hit the post early on against the Spanish champions before lashing a volley past Victor Valdes.
On the wing the Costa Rican Christian Bolanos will be one of the most skillful players on display and though his final ball is often awry Enda Stevens will need to stay strong to prevent him finding his range.
A 19 year old by the name of Thomas Delaney has played in Copenhagen’s pre-season and the Danish U21 international of Irish-American descent may feature at some stage here.
There is no doubt that anything other than a win for Copenhagen will be an upset but with the pressure off Rovers have nothing to lose, with a lot of patience and a bit of luck this could be a big night for the League of Ireland champions.
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