Tuesday 12 December 2017

O'Neill plays to Rovers strengths for Spurs raid

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

A double training session in Tallaght today will kick off the Shamrock Rovers preparations for Thursday's White Hart Lane date with Spurs.

However, Hoops manager Michael O'Neill admits there will be an element of guesswork, with Harry Redknapp likely to juggle his options ahead of a weekend showdown with Arsenal.

Therefore, rather than figuring out how to deal with individuals, the onus for the League of Ireland champions will be to work on their own strengths, with set-pieces at the top of the agenda.

"Jim Magilton went to see Spurs play Stoke in the Carling Cup last Tuesday," says O'Neill.

"Maybe that team will be the one that plays against us. They have 25 players to choose from, although Rafael van der Vaart is not in their Europa League squad. That's one less thing to worry about," he grinned.

"But maybe at home they will play a stronger team given that the travel element and logistics are not there. I have no idea what we will face, but it will still be a strong team.

"Roman Pavlyuchenko played in the last Europa League game, and there is going to be quality all over the pitch."

Rovers are fully aware they have their own internal issues to sort out when it comes to this level of competition. Their group stages bow against Rubin Kazan was ruined by an erratic start, and they have conceded first in their last five outings in Europe.

Against this quality of opposition, they cannot afford to be giving a head start.

"Our best chance is to stay 0-0 for as long as possible and exploit any chances we get," continued O'Neill.

"There will be long periods when we won't have the ball and we'll have to deal with it. As a result, we must maximise what we do on the ball when we have it, and we'll try to maximise the threat we can pose from set-pieces."

For the players, there is an added incentive to perform. They are aware that performing with credit on this stage could open doors. Already, in part due to the Hoops' European exploits, full-back Enda Stevens has landed a move to Aston Villa.

Promising midfielder Conor McCormack would relish a second chance in England after failing to make the grade as a youth at Manchester United.

"As a player, you are always looking to make the next step," he said. "Obviously, everyone here wants to try and make it over in England.

"But you have to do your best for the club and see where that takes you. If we go out there and play well, I'm sure there will be a few eyes on the game."

Irish Independent

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