ESTONIA'S Levadia Tallinn will have to turn in a five star performance if they are to prevent John Caulfield’s in-form Cork City from advancing to the next round of the Europa League qualifiers at Turner’s Cross tonight (7.45pm).
The Baltic side are probably unaware that in all bar two league games this season at Finn Harps and Galway United, the Leesiders have scored more than one goal per game and they have an impressive spread of goal-scorers too.
The goals have come from attack, midfield and indeed defence and City are the league’s highest scorers with the meanest back four.
“This return leg will be a different type of game and I have no doubt but that Levadia didn’t think we’d come out and go at them last week. I think they were expecting us to sit back and soak up the early pressure but we felt that it was an opportunity to get at them and we could cause them problems.
“Overall in the first half we were really, really good and 2-0 was a fair reflection of the first leg. Obviously they know a lot more about us now and it makes for a tighter game. They may change their formation and possibly go 4-4-2 which they have done for much of their league programme,” stressed Caulfield at his pre-match briefing.
“They tried to match us with a 4-2-3-1 but we were the dominant team. They need to try and open the game up tonight with a goal and we know we will need to manage the game properly.
“I feel if we can get that opening goal to go 3-0 up on aggregate, the tie will be over and that’s why that first goal is vital. It’s a tricky situation because so many people seem to think that we are in the next round and we’re not. We have to make sure we approach the game properly and give Levadia the respect they deserve. The challenge for us is two-fold - we need to start the game well and we need to get the first goal again,” said Caulfield.
Levadia will be missing their Cameroon centre-half Tabi Manga who was dismissed on two yellow cards in Parnu so manager Igor Prins is forced to make one change, at least, to his team. Levadia will have to try and rescue the tie and I envisage them making a few changes.
“We have come up against different formations all year but we have stuck to our own game plan and I intend to do the same tonight. We have a bench now that makes an impact whenever called upon and that’s a quality we didn’t have last year. And the other big difference is the spread of goal-scorers we have in attack, in midfield and in defence,” he added.
Caulfield admitted that he hadn’t given much thought to the fact that Dundalk may well half their 18 point lead at the top of the table while City are involved in Europe.
“There’s nothing we can do about it and it’s immaterial but we do have games in hand. Points in the bag are better than games in hand. We are back in league action on Sunday at home to St Pat’s who have added Killian Brennan and former U21 star Owen Garvan to their squad and that’s a game to look forward to as well," he added.
“I think if we get the opening goal tonight it will be better for my health and we can relax a little if we get the tie to 3-0 early on. I suppose the onus is on us but we don’t want a nervy game or for them to silence the crowd. If we score the tie is over and we go through and that’s exactly what we will be hoping to do with the help and support of our fans," he told me.