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Saint Ian: we Vil' be ready


IAN BERMINGHAM is quietly confident St Patrick's Athletic have the defensive wherewithal to frustrate Zalgiris in Vilnius tonight and keep their Europa League first qualifying round tie alive for the second leg at Richmond Park next week.

After enjoying adventures through three rounds in each of their last four participations, current Airtricity League leaders St Pat's have an appetite for Europe and believe they have a chance of getting their 2013 campaign off on the right foot in Lithuania.

But while the standard of the respective leagues is quite comparable, Zalgiris look like one of the best club sides to come out of the former Soviet republic in recent times.

They currently lie six points clear at the top of their league with 14 wins and just one defeat from their 17 league games. They've scored 48 goals and conceded just six.



As a gauge, Pole Marek Zub's side have beaten reigning champions Ekranas, the side that knocked Shamrock Rovers out of the Champions League qualifiers last season, 2-0 and 3-0 this year.

They may start with up to eight senior internationals, marshalled by 84-times capped Andrius Skerla in central defence, while the big threat up top comes from Poland's Kamil Bilinski, who has scored 13 times this season.

And they just recently signed one-time Rangers striker Andrius Velicka, who scored the winner when coming off the bench in last weekend's win over Atlantas in a top-of-the-table clash.

"We're all looking forward to it and are confident we can get a good result," said left-back Bermingham. "We're going into it in good form ourselves and have only lost once in the last 14 or so games. The lads are buzzing for it.

"Liam (manager, Buckley), Dave (Campbell) and the coaches have done their homework on them so we'll know exactly what we're up against.

"We'd expect them to be big and technical. But all teams in Europe are technically very good. We looked at a DVD of them the other night and they looked all right, so it will be a tough enough game for us. We're aware of Bilinski. He's meant to be good and he's banging in the goals. But we haven't conceded many either.

"It will probably be a tight game. But we know we can create chances and we'd bank on Christy (Fagan) scoring. He scored two last weekend, so he's in good form."

Killian Brennan played against Ekranas for Shamrock Rovers last year and has briefed his St Pat's team-mates on what to expect.

"Killian knows the standard," said 24-year-old Bermingham. "He said they (Ekranas) looked average in Tallaght, but when they came over here they stepped it up a bit.



"We know it's going to be tough, but we'd hope we can get a good result and take them back to Richmond and give them a good lash then."

As ever, Buckley has been assiduous in his preparation, having watched up to six of Zalgiris' recent games and believes his side can do themselves justice.

"We need to bring our A game to this. We're playing a top team from another country," said Buckley. "I've no doubt we'll do that. We're a decent team and it's how we pass it and how we play as a team that will dictate how we get through this tie.

"They are top of their table having won 14 of their 17 games, which is a tremendous stat. But, equally, you look at us this year. We're top of our table and got to a cup final last year.

"Everyone in the group wants to make sure the tie is alive for Richmond Park. We'd exciting games last year. It was brilliant at Richmond, as soon as a goal went in the place erupted. It was exciting and the supporters love these games. So we're looking forward to keeping the tie alive for next week."

Midfielder Brennan comes back in having served a domestic suspension to give Buckley a full-strength squad.