Dundalk FC manager Stephen Kenny has called on his side to carry their league form into Europe when they take on Levadia Tallinn in their Europa League first qualifying round first leg tie this evening (kick-off 5pm Irish time).
The Louth side equalled a club record of 10 straight league wins with a 3-1 victory away to St Patrick’s Athletic last Friday night to move four points clear at the top of the SSE Airtricity League table.
However, despite his side’s current good form the Lilywhites boss is expecting a tight affair against the Estonians.
“They’ve two strong wide players and they’re a very well drilled team who are very good from long throw-ins and set plays.
“They are a threat and it will be a tight game over the two legs.
Michael Duffy is a major doubt for the tie at the Kadriorg Stadium having limped out of the St Pat’s victory with a groin injury.
The Derry man has been in scintillating form so far this season with 9 goals and 17 assists in 25 league matches to date. However, Kenny says his side are well equipped to cope without the 23-year-old winger.
“We’ve got a good squad,” said Kenny. “We’ve been missing various players at various parts of the season and we have the capacity to overcome it.”
The Lilywhites boss said switching Dylan Connolly to the left wing, where he largely played during his time at Bray Wanderers, was one option open to him if Duffy was unavailable.
As well as Duffy, fellow Derry man Dean Jarvis is also doubtful with a hip flexor injury while Stephen O’Donnell (broken leg) and Stephen Folan (knee) haven’t travelled to Estonia. He confirmed Brian Gartland would captain the side on the night.
Kenny said he would have no qualms about throwing Georgie Kelly into the fray for his debut following his transfer from UCD last week but admitted the game was a bit too soon for fellow new recruit Patrick McEleney, who has returned from Oldham Athletic.
At this stage last year Dundalk’s domestic rivals Cork City beat Levadia 6-2 on aggregate, including a 2-0 first leg win away from home. Since then the Estonians have merged with 2016 Meistriliiga champions FC Infonet Tallinn, with just six survivors from last year in new coach Aleksandar Rogic’s squad.
Kenny says this makes the tie a much more difficult proposition than many are anticipating.
“They have two very good attacking wingers who are both aggressive and two centre-forwards. In particular Roman Debelko their Ukrainian striker has been amongst the goals so he’s one to watch.”
Kenny also dismissed the idea that his side were firm favourites to advance to the second qualifying round against AEK Larnaca.
“We don’t look at it like that. It’s a very tough game and we have a battle on our hands to win and we have to earn the right to win. You can never take anything for granted in Europe,” he said.