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clarke aims to keep it clean!

DUBLINER Brendan Clarke really will be the man in the firing line in Portugal tonight when he makes his European debut for Sporting Fingal against Maritimo.

But even though he's facing a side packed with international strikers and star Brazilians (no less than 17 of those in the Maritimo squad), goalkeeper Clarke says he's not at all fazed by the prospect and is treating the game in the same way as if he was facing UCD or Galway United.

Fingal make their debut in European competition in Madeira tonight (KO 7.45) with a stiff task, as the Portuguese club have a very, very talented squad and a good European record. Maritimo have won five of their eight home games in Europe, losing only to clubs like Valencia and Juventus, while the panel includes internationals from Algeria (Abdelmalek Cherrad) and Angola (Djalma Campos).

"I try to be ready and be prepared in the same way for every game, whether it's Bray Wanderers at home or someone like Maritimo away in the Europa League," says Clarke, who joined Fingal from St Pats at the start of the season. "They are a good side, everyone knows how good the Portuguese league is so for this team to finish fifth in that league means they will be very sharp. They have some good Portuguese players and some decent Brazilians as well. They seem to be very good up front.

"A lot will depend on me. They will be a very good side and they seem to be very good at set-pieces so I know I will be busy tonight. But I honestly won't be worried or scared going out there tonight. I will show them the respect they deserve as a European team but I will look on it as just another game. We had a lot of information on them even before we travelled and we came out to Madeira early, on Sunday, to acclimatise and give ourselves every chance of success," added Clarke.

Fingal boss Liam Buckley had his squad well prepared on tonight's opponents, as coach Dave Campbell assembled a detailed dossier on the side, but Clarke did his own homework as well. "I did a bit of background on them on the internet," he says. "You want to get an idea of what's in store for you so you'd have a look to see what the stadium is like, have a look on YouTube for their games to see what they are like, what the crowds are like.

"I know a lot will rely on me, how me and the defence do tonight. Scoring away from home is vital if you want to do well. If you look at the good runs Pats had in Europe last year and the year before, the key was scoring away.

"But I want to try and keep a clean sheet here as well, if we can do that we would be really set up for the home leg."

"It's a big night for me now tonight. I have been involved in Europe for the last couple of years with Pats but I didn't play, I was on the bench. So this is a chance for me now to be involved.

"I had been at Pats for a long time so I did feel part of it when we were on those runs in Europe and they were amazing times we went through.

"Away to a Russian team and we had three fans at the game over there, I had grown up as a Pats fan so the wins meant a lot to me even though I didn't play. And now I have a chance to play in Europe at last," added Clarke.