Sunday 21 January 2018

O'Neill to play strong hand against Juve despite Bohs looming large

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

SHAMROCK ROVERS manager Michael O'Neill will resist the temptation to make wholesale changes for Thursday's return meeting of their Europa League tie with Juventus.

The Hoops accept they have no realistic chance of progression after their two-goal defeat in the first game in Tallaght and, when they return from Italy, they face a crucial meeting with fellow title contenders and arch-rivals Bohemians on Sunday.

While O'Neill does have that game in the back of his mind and will make a few adjustments given his team's recent hectic schedule, there is no temptation to treat the occasion in Modena lightly.

"At the end of the day, we've an opportunity to play a top side in a sell-out, a big plus for the lads," he said, reflecting in the wake of his side's gruelling 3-3 draw with Sporting Fingal.

"We've got to make sure we go and acquit ourselves well and not go through the motions, albeit that the Bohemians game is very important next week.

"But the league is not going to be won and lost next week. There are still a lot of games after that. I think next Sunday will take care of itself. Probably realistically, you're looking at your midfield and attacking positions to give yourself that bit of extra freshness.

"The defenders aren't so bad, the position means they can go game after game. In the middle, it is hard for the likes of Robert Bayly and Chris Turner."

Turner is naturally keen to figure, however, with the former Northern Ireland U-21 international also keen to make a statement to his national team boss Nigel Worthington.

He believes there are players in the League of Ireland good enough to represent the North -- his team-mate Alan Mannus has been included in squads over the past since his move to Dublin, but did skip a tour to the Americas because of his club commitments.

"I don't know if he (Worthington) even watches this league," said Turner. "It would be nice if he did because there are players who can play in the team.

"We're massive underdogs for Thursday, but we've got to go out and relax and show the world that we can play football."

Irish Independent

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