Sunday 17 December 2017

Everything you need to know about Dundalk's Champions League opponents Legia Warsaw

Callum McGregor, Celtic (left) and Tomasz Jodlowiec, Legia Warsaw (right) during the Champions League Qualifying at Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Callum McGregor, Celtic (left) and Tomasz Jodlowiec, Legia Warsaw (right) during the Champions League Qualifying at Murrayfield, Edinburgh

Tom Rooney

Identical to their forthcoming Champions League playoff opponents Dundalk, Polish outfit Legia Warsaw have won their domestic title on 11 occasions.

And, just like the Lilywhites, Legia are the reigning champions in their home nation. They also hold the record for winning the Polish Cup an impressive 18 times.

However, unlike Stephen Kenny’s outfit, Warsaw are not on course to retain their crown, and currently sit seventh in the Ekstraklasa, though it is only three games into the campaign.

In the Champions League qualifying rounds two years ago, they ruthlessly dispatched of St Patrick’s Athletic by an aggregate of 6-1, including a 5-0 drubbing on their home turf.

They would be eliminated by Celtic in the next round in rather dubious circumstances. In the first leg Warsaw won 4-1 and then were victorious in the return by 2-0.

But, they had illegally fielded Bartosz Bereszyński, so UEFA granted Celtic a 3-0 win for the second tie, bringing the aggregate to 4-4, with the Hoops advancing on away goals.

Their more recent European pedigree is, relatively speaking, not too shabby. Advancing through the playoff rounds, Legia progressed to the groups stages of last term’s Europa League.

That being said, then manager Stanislav Cherchesov - who succeeded Henning Berg - could only compel his side to record one victory from six as they finished bottom of a bracket containing Napoli, Club Brugge and future Manchester United foes, FC Midtjylland.

In June, Cherchesov was replaced by former Anderlecht boss Besnik Hasi, who has at his disposal an extremely impressive group of players, including recent Poland Euro 2016 veteran Tomasz Brzyski.

Unsurprisingly, their squad is littered with Polish internationals, no more than in defence.

Full back Michal Pazdan has 22 caps, centre half Tomasz Jodłowiec has amassed 49, while Bartosz Bereszyński and Igor Lewczuk can currently boast two.

Moreover, they can call on two former France U21 representatives in Thibault Moulin and Steevin Langil.

Worryingly for Dundalk, Hungarian international striker Nemanja Nikolić is a formidable operator, having netted 28 goals and contributed 10 assists during Legia’s recent title winning tilt.

Legia's two Champions League ties to date have proven hard-fought: in the last round they managed just a 1-0 aggregate win over Trench and, before, defeated Zrinjski by an overall 3-1 score.

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