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Shamrock Rovers v FC Partizan, Thursday 7.45, Live on RTE 2
Shamrock Rovers will be looking to clear the final hurdle into European football proper when FC Partizan Belgrade visit Tallaght Stadium for the first leg of the Europa League fourth qualifying round tie.
If they are to progress, Michael O’Neill’s side will need to win in Dublin as the Serbian champions offer an imposing fixture for the second leg with a hostile atmosphere and strong home record, Partizan have dominated Serbian football since independence winning four of the five leagues since 2006.
Rovers are undoubtedly underdogs against the technical and physical Serbs but their performances against Copenhagen show that they are capable of competing at this level though they will need to find an extra gear to get past the Serbian champions.
The Copenhagen match seemed an opportunity lost but if Rovers learnt from their mistakes it will soon be forgotten, the lesson is simple in theory; take your chances.
With Gary Twigg, Rovers are always capable of scoring and if he can get enough ball Rovers could extend their season to December with the group stages of the Europa League.
Ronan Finn who set tongues wagging with his performances earlier this season has yet to make much of an impact on the European stage but his performance will be vital if Rovers are to progress
Connor McCormack has been the stand out player in Europe this year with his high energy and clever passing, if he can keep Rovers ticking over with his distribution they will be able to turn defence into attack quickly and regularly.
Friday’s 6-0 win over UCD on Friday should give them confidence but Partizan too enjoyed a healthy 5-0 win over Novi Pazar in their season opener on Saturday in what was a high-tempo and physical performance.
Players to watch
Vladimir Volkov in particular looks to be a real threat, a left winger deployed from the full back position he will be looking to put Rovers on the back foot with probing runs and Pat Sullivan will need to be on solid than he has been of late if the Serbian is to kept from influencing the outcome.
Partizan captain Sasa Ilic will look to retain the ball in the centre of the field and without McCormack Rovers will need to be careful in possession as Ilic is capable of splitting defences with pinpoint through balls.
Up front, Lamine Diarra will be a handful for the Dubliner’s back line, though he favours using his speed to attack from wide positions his eye for goal means that even if he is kept at bay he must not be allowed to let too many shots off.
His strike partner Eduardo Pacheco only joined the Serbian champions this summer but his reputation is that of a skilful striker capable of running at defences.
Odds – Paddy Power
Shamrock Rovers 3/1 Draw 23/10 FC Partizan 21/10