Not being ‘bullied’ by KRC Genk in terms of influencing referees is a key priority for Cork City ahead of tonight’s Europa League third qualifying round second-leg tie at Turner’s Cross (7.45pm), according to manager John Caulfield.
City go into the game trailing 1-0 on aggregate as they seek to reach the play-off round for the group stage.
In last week’s first leg in Belgium, though, Caulfield felt that Genk captain Thomas Buffel “refereed the game” and he is keen that the same doesn’t happen here.
“They’ve a bit of experience and a lot of cuteness,” he said.
“What was interesting last week was that Buffel ran the show, he refereed the game.
“It was quite obvious that Seánie took a hard time, there were a lot of fouls he didn’t get, [Wilfred] Ndidi committed a lot of fouls but wasn’t booked until late on, same with [Sébastien] Dewaest.
“Buffel controlled the ref, lots of decisions in the second half he was on top of him, so we have to be careful of that.
“He has been around, he’s an international, he has been with Feyenoord and Rangers. The manager has them in there because he’s so experienced.
“We’re aware that he’ll be at that tomorrow, he’s a very cunning guy, but we’re hoping that everybody will be concentrating and that the referee will be strong.
“They certainly bullied us last week, they got away with a lot and we’re hoping that that won’t happen again.”
Kristo Tohver of Estonia takes charge of the game tonight, with Caulfield hoping that his team — and the sell-out crowd — can take advantage of Genk’s away record, which is relatively poor in comparison to their history at home.
“Everyone had told us that their home record is phenomenal, they hardly ever lose at home, but they don’t always travel well,” he said.
“That gives us encouragement, as does the fact that we created chances out there.
“We know we’re massive underdogs, but, at the same time, with a full house, massive noise and the fact that they haven’t travelled well, we’re optimistic that it will be a memorable night.
“The last game, even in the final five minutes, the noise was incredible and we’ve told the lads to embrace that again. It gives them that extra bit of encouragement and the reason it’s so crucial is that the opposition wouldn’t be used to the close proximity of the pitch, it can rattle players.”
With midfielder Greg Bolger expected to play, Caulfield has just one injury concern.
“Steven Beattie has a knock since last week and it’s a bit trickier than we thought so he has done very little training this week,” he said.
“We can’t be stupid, we know that we have to keep our shape.
“We know the areas where we can cause them lots of problems, but, at the same time, there are areas that they’re strong and we have to guard against that.
“We’ve discussed concentration and focus all week, our eyes are totally geared up and we’re hoping to be ready right from the start.
“You’ve different gameplans, you have to work on what happens if this happens or that happens. From our own point of view, it’ll be similar, maybe one change.”
Bolger — the stand-in captain with John Dunleavy ruled out for the rest of the season — is calling on his team-mates to put in a big performance.
“It’s probably one of the biggest games in the club’s history,” he said.
“We’ve prepared well, everyone’s flying fit, we’re looking forward to it but we’re under no illusions. I think Genk will step it up, from our point of view we need to be at the level we were last week, or better.
“If we’re not all eights, nines out of ten, we’ll be picked off.
“It’s a game we’re really looking forward to but we need to be at it if we’re going to go through.
“It’s exciting, it’s a chance to progress and for the club financially it’d be great.”
While his ankle-ligament injury has limited his ability to train, Bolger won’t be prevented from lining out.
“I’ve probably trained about four times in a month, but it’s getting better, I don’t know how, but it is.
“I’m still haven’t to get strapping and to have rehab. The last few games, it was sore but it was bearable. The ankle’s still there!”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved