Irish Daily Mail

Irish sides going for broke


KEITH Long had a positive message for his Bohemians charges ahead of Euro combat with Greek side PAOK in Thessaloni­ki this evening. ‘They’re a high-calibre team, higher ranking with a bigger budget, but they’re not immortals,’ reminded the Bohs boss. With the Gypsies holding a 2-1 first-leg lead in the Europa Conference League third round qualifier, his opposite number, Razvan Lucescu, an ungracious loser in Dublin, yesterday ramped up the pre-match stakes by stating that ‘defeat is not an option.’ ‘Everyone understand­s the importance of tomorrow’s fight and there is a huge will to make it happen,’ he said. ‘I heard a lot of analysis about the game in Ireland. I do not completely agree. I believe tomorrow we will be better. We will have better reactions and we will not make mistakes.’ Long was shrewd enough to peddle the line to Greek journalist­s that the ‘pressure is on PAOK to progress’ which it undoubtedl­y is. The Dubliner knows this is a step up on Stjarnan of Iceland and Dudelange of Luxembourg. ‘The first leg is irrelevant. We’re very much the underdogs and we’ve got to come here and do a big job. It’s another big night in their developmen­t as footballer­s,’ said Long. ‘There’s no point having ambitions to progress in Europe if you can’t come to places like this and give a good account of yourselves. We’re in full season so that’s a help for us. ‘We’re going to have to step up from last week as I am sure the opposition will step up in terms of intensity, and we have to be ready for that. That’s the challenge. ‘We have surprised one or two people with the level of our quality and we have to try and repeat that here in difficult circumstan­ces. ‘It’s 31 degrees, hot and humid, and it will have an effect on our

performanc­e. If it gets above 32 degrees mark, maybe we’ll get some water breaks. ‘It’s outside of our control so we will have to try to cope with it as best as we can. We will only know exactly what will happen when we cross the white line. It’s the same for both teams and they are very used to it. ‘They play and live in this environmen­t and temperatur­es, so they will have an advantage.’ Bohs fans who made the long trip won’t be permitted into the ground, to the ‘disappoint­ment’ of the club officials who pointed out that a small number of PAOK fans were accommodat­ed at the Aviva Stadium last Thursday. ‘Hopefully, we can put in a performanc­e for them,’ said Long. It will require something special against a team whose Europa League group phase home record since 2010 includes wins over Villarreal, Shakhtar Donetsk, Dinamo Zagreb and PSV, and draws with Spurs, Rubin Kazan, Borussia Dortmund and Fiorentina.

 ??  ?? Underdogs: Keith Long
Underdogs: Keith Long

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