Saturday 22 July 2017

Fenlon sizes up rivals as Bohs enter the unknown

Paul Buttner, in Ljubljana

As well as finalising his own team's preparation with training at the SRC Stozice Stadium, Pat Fenlon was busy last night -- and may well be for much of today -- doing his homework on Bohemians' Slovenian opponents ahead of tonight's Europa League second qualifying round first-leg tie against Olimpija Ljubljana (7.0).

While nothing compared to St Patrick's Athletic's jaunt to Kazakhstan, Bohemians had their own difficulties in arranging to get here -- they travelled via Munich on Tuesday afternoon and then endured a five-hour coach journey to Ljubljana, arriving in the early hours of yesterday morning.

Fenlon, however, didn't see that as an issue as one alternative was an eight-hour stopover in Paris. "The fact we've come out a day early gives us time to recover, train and be ready for the game," said the Bohs boss.

While still hopeful last night of getting a link to watch Olimpija's 3-0 first-round second-leg win over Bosnian side Siroki Brijeg last week, Fenlon has so far seen only one DVD of them in action from last season.

"It's been difficult," he revealed. "I've got the DVD of their last league game from last season but there are about four changes from that in the team that played in the second leg against the Bosnians.

"I've a little bit of a handle on them, but there are one or two I'd like to see as they've obviously improved it with the players they've brought in.

"They play a 4-3-3 with good movement between the middle three and top three. They're a typical side from this area -- good movement and technically very good. They've one or two experienced players in there, but they look like a young team."

Fenlon has an impressive sprinkling of young players at his own disposal, but he's likely to field his most experienced players in the hope of keeping the tie alive for the return leg at Dalymount.

"If it was at Dalymount we might throw one or two of the young lads in. I'd like to give them a little bit of experience of playing in Europe, but just being here on the bench will be good for them."

Bohs have slight doubts over captain Owen Heary, Mark Rossiter and Glenn Cronin, but all received treatment prior to leaving Dublin and are expected to be fit.

"Keeping it alive will be good on two fronts: from a playing point of view and getting a crowd for the return from a financial point of view," said Fenlon. "Obviously, it would be even better if we managed to get through."

competitive

While Olimpija, whose season has yet to start, have played just the two competitive games from the previous round, Bohemians go into this game in their best form of the season, with just one defeat in eight games.

Apart from two Serbs and a Macedonian, Olimpija's squad is home-based. Their manager, Dusan Kosic, who played against Shelbourne here eight years ago, has a couple of full internationals in his squad, the most notable being midfielder Dare Vrsic, but he didn't feature in Slovenia's most recent 2-0 win over Brian Kerr's Faroe Islands last month.

It's set to hit 31 degrees in Ljubjlana today, with the temperature at match time to be around 22. But it's the energy-sapping high humidity that will be be of most concern to Fenlon. Olimpija captain Dalibor Radujko, who scored twice last week against Siroki Brijeg, is quietly confident his side can progress.

"I expect a hard match," said Radujko. "All we know is that the players from Ireland are perhaps a little less technically versed but are great fighters."

Bohemians (probable) -- Murphy; Heary, Burns, Price, Cahill; O'Brien; Bayly, Cronin; Flood, Fagan, Brennan.

Irish Independent

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