Concentration is Cork City manager John Caulfield’s priority ahead of his side’s meeting with Sweden’s BK Hacken in Gothenburg tonight (6pm).
Caulfield knows his side must be mentally tuned in to have a chance of bringing the Swedes back to Turner’s Cross with hopes of progression still alive.
The Leesiders carry the underdog tag into a meeting with last year’s Swedish Cup champions, having squeaked past Linfield last week. And while City boss Caulfield has faith in his side’s technical abilities, he knows they must be quick out of the blocks at the Bravida Arena.
“We know we have to be on the top of our game and specifically we need maximum concentration and everyone needs to work as hard as they can because we’re going to be under a lot of pressure; we’ve been excellent at the back this season and have been scoring a lot of goals, so the main thing is to be at it from the start.
“The brilliant thing about sport is that there’s no guarantees; while they’re overwhelming favourites, and certainly with the record over the last few years we’re massive underdogs, we’ve great resolve across the team, great attitude, great spirit. They might have the stars but the most important thing for us as a team is to gel together, and make sure we don’t stand off them.”
Caulfield himself has played in Gothenburg in City colours; 17 years ago, leading side IFK were the opponents and romped to a 3-0 victory over their Irish opponents. But the club’s all-time leading goalscorer knows what the Leesiders must do in order to avoid a repeat.
“If you give them room, they’ll open you up; they have a front three with lots of pace and energy. They’ve been scoring a lot of goals but have been conceding a lot as well so we’ll be hoping that on the counter, we’ll be able to cause some damage as well.
“They’re a huge side over here, you see their players arriving to the training ground in sponsored cars, and one of their former players was just signed to a Sofia side for over €500-000. We hear their running costs are around €25-30 million, so that shows you where they are as a club.”
If City are to contain their fancied opponents, they’ll need to lean on the services of the more experienced players in the dressing room. Greg Bolger and Kenny Browne missed out on Sunday’s league victory over Wexford Youths and indeed training over in Gothenburg, but the City boss was hopeful the pair will take part tonight.
“Those two are the biggest concerns for us. Obviously, you want to go into the game over here with your strongest 11; Greg is 50/50 and so is Kenny probably, and also Alan Bennett is carrying a knock but we’re hoping he’ll come through, as does Steven Beattie.
“Greg and Kenny are our biggest concerns though, and we’ll be giving them every opportunity to prove their fitness up until kick-off, but it’s touch and go with the two lads at the moment.”
Tonight’s game will take place at the newly constructed Bravida Arena in the east side of the city. With City having struggled so much at Oriel Park’s plastic pitch in the past, the synthetic surface in Gothenburg has been cause for much discussion among Rebel Army ranks over the last few weeks.
Caulfield played down the concerns: “It’s an excellent pitch. We’ve been getting used to it with the lads but to be honest it’s more like grass than astro and we’re looking forward to getting out on it.”
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