NOT exactly impressed by the local media placing the tag of ‘David versus Goliath’ on the tie, Sporting Fingal manager Liam Buckley will hope that his extensive preparation will give his side every chance as the club makes its European debut at the Estadio da Madeira tonight.
Sporting travelled out last Sunday ahead of the game, employed a conditioning coach while scout Dave Campbell compiled a full dossier on Maritimo.
“It’s not David versus Goliath. We’ve come to play and compete,” stressed Buckley. “We’ve prepared well and if we go out and play as we can, we’ve a chance.”
Maritimo’s Dutch manager, Mitchell van der Gaag, is wary of the threat Sporting will pose: “It is not PlayStation, so it won’t be that easy,” quipped van der Gaag, who is likely to start no fewer than seven Brazilians.
“Everyone saw the World Cup and there were a lot of favourites, but only Spain were capable of winning. Some of the favourites were not capable of dealing with the pressure.”
The fact the Sporting have come a long way since losing their first game 5-1 at Longford in March 2008 wasn’t lost on winger Conan Byrne, whose pace on the counterattack could be a key ingredient to their hopes of keeping the tie alive for the return at Dalymount Park next Thursday.
“There has been a lot of change since then. No disrespect to the other players, but there is a massive difference in the squad we have now,” said Byrne.
Sporting won’t alter their attacking 4-3-3 formation, which should be suited to playing in Europe.
“I don’t think we’re going to change the way we play to suit them,” said midfielder Ronan Finn, who played in the same ground for the Ireland Under-21s here three years ago. “We changed it a couple of weeks ago against Bohemians and it didn’t really work.
“We’re going to play the way we normally play with the two wide men dropping back a little bit deeper to give the three of us in the middle a little more cover.”
Byrne, defender Shaun Maher and midfielder Shane McFaul have recovered from injuries to give Buckley a fully fit squad.
Maritimo have injury concerns with star Brazilian midfielder Rafael Miranda (hamstring) ruled out while €5 million-rated Angolan left winger Djalma is a doubt with an ankle injury.
SPORTING FINGAL (probable): Clarke; O’Brien, Hawkins, Browne, Fitzgerald; Finn, McFaul, Williams; Byrne, Crowe, Kirby.
MARITIMO (probable): Pecanha; Ricardo Esteves, Guilherme, Robson, Luciano; Marquinho, Tcho, Sousa, Djalma; Baba; Cherrard.
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