'This is the best shape the squad has been in' - Vinny Perth says Dundalk ready for European run ahead of Riga test
Dundalk boss Vinny Perth believes his squad are in the best shape ever for a European campaign as they prepare for Champions League duty this week.
After a one-year absence from the Champions League last summer, due to the surrender of their league crown to Cork City in 2017, the Oriel Park club are back in Europe's main club competition, the Lilywhites at home to Latvian side FK Riga on Wednesday night, that tie already sold out.
Perth has warned against over-confidence against their Latvian opponents but feels that the league leaders are well-placed to deliver what he calls "another special European night".
Perth says: "We will be really well prepared and we have done a huge amount of work on the opposition.
"This is the most positive, the best shape that squad has been since I have been at the club, our league form is good and we're in a good place.
"We have done it all before in Europe, we have had difficult nights, like drawing at home to FH from Iceland when it was doom and gloom.
"We have had highs and lows, but the players have huge experience, that experience over the last six or seven years has them heading towards 30 games in Europe."
Dundalk got past Baltic opposition last year, beating Estonian side FC Levadia 3-1 in the Europa League before a defeat to Larnaca, and Perth expects a tougher test over the next 180 minutes.
"It's a really tough game, this time last year we played Levia and I'd consider Riga slightly better, so we have to be ready for it and bring our A game," added Perth, good news for his club as long-serving defender Brian Gartland has signed a new contract.
"They would have liked to get us or the Welsh side in the draw so it's a favourable draw for them, they'll see it as an opportunity."
New signing Andy Boyle is clear to play in tie.
Dundalk have also received a pre-match boost with the news that captain Brian Gartland has a new deal with the club until the end of the 2020 season.
The 32-year-old defender has won four Premier Division titles, two FAI Cups and two EA Sports Cups since joining the Lilywhites from Portadown in the summer of 2013.
"I'm delighted to get the deal done," he said. "I’ve been at Dundalk for six great years already and it's the only place I want to be, so to come to an agreement that secures my future and that both myself and the club are happy with is terrific."