Friday 14 December 2018

We must score and bring something to Sweden, insists Bolger

Greg Bolger of Shamrock Rovers. Photo: Sportsfile
Greg Bolger of Shamrock Rovers. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Having played two of the current top three Swedish sides earlier this year, Shamrock Rovers will have a fair idea what to expect from AIK when they arrive in Tallaght this evening (7.05).

A pre-season tournament in Portugal is, however, an altogether different challenge to taking on the Swedish league leaders, who are unbeaten this season, in a Europa League qualifier.

AIK are well used to navigating their way through Europe and while it has been 18 years since they last played in the group stages of the Champions League, they made it to the group stages of the Europa League in 2013.

No one in the Hoops camp is underestimating the scale of the challenge that lies ahead, but confidence is high, particularly because Rovers have only lost one of their last nine league games, and have kept four consecutive clean sheets, since 16-year-old goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu has come into the side.

Greg Bolger has played in plenty of these big nights and as the midfielder gets set for his 22nd European clash, he believes that Rovers must be positive in their approach, and not be overawed.

"We played three Swedish teams in pre-season so we can kinda gauge it," Bolger said. "Two years ago with Cork we played Hacken and they were a very good side. We got through that tie, but I think these are a lot better. We know we are going to be up against it and we are going to have to have eight or nine out of 10 performances from everyone to keep it alive.

"I think we need to score. That's vital, especially being at home. We have to try to bring something over there."

Stephen Bradley has been dealt a blow after Brandon Miele picked up a knee injury in training and is facing a month on the sidelines.

Like Bolger, the Rovers manager insists that his side must be positive at home, but warned that they wouldn't be naive enough to go all-out attack.

"It's not going to be one of these games where you go gung-ho for 90 minutes because they are too good for that and will punish you.

"When the time is right in the game and you are having a little spell then you have to try and make it count. You cannot open up from the first to 90th minute because you will get punished."

Given the amount of younger, less-experienced players in the Rovers side, Bradley will be relying on the likes of Bolger and skipper Ronan Finn to set the tempo.

Against a good AIK side, that won't be easy, but, as Bolger put it, Rovers must travel to Sweden with a positive result if they are to have any hope of qualifying for the second round.

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