Dundalk will be hoping to achieve the “unthinkable” when they take to the field at the Borisov Arena tonight (6.30pm Irish time) to face BATE Borisov in the second qualifying round of the Champions League.
The Louth men are huge underdogs to advance against the Belarusians, who have reached the group stages of the competition five times in the last seven seasons.
Having travelled to Barysaw to see BATE in action recently, manager Stephen Kenny — who managed Bohemians to victory against the same opponents in 2003 — knows his side face a mammoth task but says they are not in awe of Aleksandr Yermakovich’s men.
Yet, he admitted: “It is the toughest draw we could have got. BATE Borisov have been in the group stages for five of the last seven years so if they didn’t now also get through they would consider that a disappointment.
“The possibility of them losing to us would be unthinkable to them.
“But, from our point of view, we believe in ourselves and in our talent. We believe we have a lot of quality in the team and we don’t have an inferiority complex against anyone. We’re used to winning matches, hardly losing any in the last couple of years, so we wouldn’t be fearful going there.
“We showed last year in winning three European games out of four what we’re capable of. Two of those games were away and we scored two in each of the away games so that must give us some confidence going there.”
Indeed, Kenny admits that an away goal could be crucial to his side’s hopes of keeping the game alive for the return leg in Oriel Park on July 22nd.
“BATE haven’t lost any games at home this season in the league so I don’t think we can be too defensive in our approach but that’s not in our make-up; otherwise we’ll be thinking can we score?
“Away goals can be significant. At this stage last year BATE beat Skenderbeu the Albanian champions on away goals so that gives you an indication of the value of them.
“It would be catastrophic for them not to advance but for us it opens up a whole new dimension because we take their seeding and you’d be one game away from being in the group stages which could transform the club. We’re going to have to play above ourselves to get any kind of result,” he said.
Centre-half Andy Boyle is the only doubt for the Lilywhites with a calf problem and is expected to miss out with Paddy Barrett set to come into the fold.
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