Friday 23 August 2019

Dundalk facing possible Europa League tie with Ajax as playoff round draw is revealed

Dundalk head coach Vinny Perth prior to the UEFA Champions League Second Qualifying Round 1st Leg match between Dundalk and Qarabag FK at Oriel Park in Dundalk, Louth. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Dundalk head coach Vinny Perth prior to the UEFA Champions League Second Qualifying Round 1st Leg match between Dundalk and Qarabag FK at Oriel Park in Dundalk, Louth. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Aidan Fitzmaurice

Dundalk boss Vinny Perth says his squad won't be distracted from their task in Europe this week by the prospect of a meeting with Ajax in the next round of the Europa League.

Before the squad flew out from Dublin on Monday to prepare for Wednesday's first leg of their Europa League qualifying round tie with Slovakian side Slovan Bratislava, the Co Louth club learned who they could face in the next round: the losers of the Champions League tie between Ajax and Greek outfit PAOK.

For a Dundalk-Ajax game to happen, a rematch of their Cup Winners Cup battle in 1987, Dundalk would of course have to get past Slovan and Ajax, Champions League semi-finalists last season, need to lose to PAOK but some are still dreaming, such as the club's opposition analyst and scout.

"The most excited person in the camp is Stephen O'Donnell, who now has a chance to go and watch Ajax live," Perth told Independent.ie before the squad left Dublin today.

"We have enough work to do for the moment. We will have the next round covered but we have a lot of work to do over the next week. You'd expect Ajax to get through their tie anyway, seeing as they were semi-finalists last season and we will prepare.

"But we have to do our own business first and that's the focus."

Perth has had Slovan watched ahead of Wednesday's game in Bratislava, most recently in their weekend 3-0 win in the domestic league.

"They are a hard side to predict," says Perth. "In their last six matches they have played three different shapes, their personnel tends to change, though I am sure people look at us and wonder what team we will play.

"It's early in their season, but they are a good side and we'll have to work hard to compete with them."

Apart from Robbie Benson, who could return for next week's home leg with Slovan, Dundalk travelled with a full squad.

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