Relaxed Rovers ready for Danish test

SHAMROCK ROVERS go into tonight’s Champions League third qualifying round clash against FC Copenhagen with a massive task. They must overcome a club that made the knockout stages of the competition last year, emerging from the group stages behind Barcelona before being eliminated in the last 16 by Chelsea.

It is a different situation for Rovers tonight compared with their other games this season with Copenhagen clear favourites. However, Rovers manager Michael O’Neill speaking in the Parken Stadium ahead of the game, feels this may actually help his side. “The pressure was on us to get through the last round,” said O’Neill, “We can maybe approach this game in a slightly more relaxed manner. The expectation level is lower and I think the players will relish that.”

Rovers are missing two of their key performers from their win against FC Flora Tallinn. Midfielder Chris Turner is suspended and will most likely be replaced by Stephen Rice. An even bigger miss could be Northern Ireland international Alan Mannus who joined SPL side St Johnstone last week.

Mannus will be replaced in goal by Jamaican international Ryan Thompson. Listening to Thompson, it is clear the keeper is confident about stepping up to play his first game in the Champions League. “I’m ready. I’ve been preparing for years and months, sitting on the bench, biding my time. Now I’m ready to go on and express myself. The stage is set, it’s about time I show here who Ryan Thompson is all about.”

His manager has no worries about his new keeper. “I think his mentality and his mindset will help him,” said a relaxed O’Neill. “He has the right character to deal with the situation.”

O’Neill went on to explain his team’s strategy for tonight’s game. “The objective is to make sure the tie is very much alive when we go back to Tallaght, to contain Copenhagen and look to exploit them when we get the opportunity to do so. We do believe there are areas that we can exploit.”

Copenhagen’s new manager Roland Nilsson, a former teammate of Michael O’Neill at Coventry City, spoke about Rovers. “They are well organised and have lots of energy,” said the former Swedish star. “We are favourites. If you are going to beat a team that are well organised, you need to do something to break it up and that is with good passing and a high tempo.”

COPENHAGEN (probable): Christensen; Thomsen, Oviedo, Ottesen, Bergvold; Bolanos, Claudemir, Grindheim, Diouf; N’Doye, Santin.

SHAMROCK ROVERS (probable): Thompson; Sullivan, Sives, Oman, Stevens; Dennehy, Rice, Finn, McCormack, Kelly; Twigg.

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