Saturday 1 November 2014

O'Brien: Saints can rock Berg's men

Paul Buttner

Published 16/07/2014 | 02:30

Ger O'Brien believes St Patrick's Athletic have what it takes to cause an upset in their Champions League qualifier against Legia Warsaw. Photo: Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE
Ger O'Brien believes St Patrick's Athletic have what it takes to cause an upset in their Champions League qualifier against Legia Warsaw. Photo: Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE

Shunning any sense of inferiority and bringing their A game to the Pepsi Arena tonight is what St Patrick's Athletic skipper Ger O'Brien is hoping can catch Legia Warsaw cold.

With a turnover of €50m, a squad containing 17 internationals and an expected crowd of around 15,000 roaring them on, Legia are undoubtedly a level or two above St Pat's as the sides clash in the Champions League second qualifying round, first leg.

O'Brien, though, has been in this position before.

"It's going to be really tough as they are a good side, but you can't come here with an inferiority complex," said the right-back.

"I've played in enough European games to know there is a big difference. But some teams you can give too much respect to. We're here with a game-plan and hoping to get a positive result to take back to Dublin."

O'Brien (30) is aware that Legia have not exactly set Europe alight despite their resources.

"We'd be relatively similar. They got to the Europa League group stages last year. But their ambition is to get to the Champions League group stage, so the pressure is all on them," he said. "We saw Drogheda going to Dynamo Kiev a few years ago and they were the width of a post away from knocking them out.

"We'll need to be at our best and get a little bit of luck. There is no reason to think that we can't do it.

"They are expecting to go through, there is no doubt about that. The bookies have them as heavy favourites, but we've prepared as best we can and hopefully we can spring a surprise."

Despite their domestic season not having started yet, Legia manager Henning Berg says their preparation has been good.

"Our break was very short. It was two weeks from the final match to the first training day and fitness tests," said the former Manchester United defender, who name-checked Keith Fahey, Killian Brennan and Christy Fagan as St Pat's dangermen.

"But it has given us a fresher mentality. Of course we are well prepared. I don't think they have a big advantage. It should be even."

With left-back Ian Bermingham and midfielder Brennan expected to be passed fit following ankle and knee injuries, respectively, Sean Hoare is St Pat's only absentee.

"They are full of internationals and they are looking forward to the group stages, by all accounts," said manager Liam Buckley, who is likely to play Fahey and Greg Bolger in a holding pair in front of the back four.

"Our ambition is to play as well as we can. If you play Legia 10 times you won't be favourites to win the 10, but there will be one or two times you will get a result.

"We'll be conscious of trying not to concede. We want to keep the tie alive. We have strengths in our team that I'm sure they'll give us respect for as well.

"The key is ball retention. If we do it as well as we can do, we'll be in the tie."

Legia Warsaw (probable): Kuciak; Broz, Rzezniczak, Astiz, Brzyski; Judlowiec, Pinto; Zyro, Radovic, Kucharcyk; Sa.

St Patrick's Athletic (probable): Clarke; O'Brien, Oman, Browne, Bermingham; Fahey, Bolger; Byrne, Brennan, Forrester; Fagan.

LEGIA WARSAW V ST PAT'S, LIVE, SETANTA SPORTS, 7.45pm

Irish Independent

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