Thursday 5 August
UEFA Europa Conference League schedule
Vitesse Arnhem vs. Dundalk, Arnhem, 6 p.m.
Shamrock Rovers vs. Teuta Durres, Tallaght Stadium, 8 p.m.
Where to look?
Both games are available on LOITV – more information here.
The rain is expected to dissipate in Arnhem early in the day, followed by dry and pleasantly warm weather. Weather in Dublin is supposed to be rainy all evening, and we all know Tallaght tends to be windier than most other places on earth.
A better forecast is provided by met.
The bohemians to inspire the rivals of LOI?
I think most fans of the SSE Airtricity League were delighted with the Bohemians’ laudable 2-1 victory over PAOK on Tuesday night at Aviva Stadium.
The Greek giants’ online budget estimates ranged from € 25 million to € 80million per year, but even at the lowest of those numbers they are spending around 25 times more to pay their players than the Dalymount Park club.
And yet, Bohs came away with a 2-1 win despite a few glimpses hinting that they would be lucky to come away with a 3-0 defeat.
Although they still have a long way to go and are still underdogs to go through, as Keith Long later acknowledged, their performance on Tuesday should give hope to both clubs in the Irish League in action later today.
Fitness-boosted Dundalk outdoors
Dundalk followers might point out that their own European experiences over the past five years are what they will later build on in the Netherlands.
On two occasions they have reached the group stages of the Europa League, while last week’s late victory over Levadia Tallinn was particularly satisfying.
Tonight’s opponents Vitesse Arnhem finished 4th last season in the Eredivisie and reached the Dutch Cup final, losing 2-1 to Ajax. The new season should start in 10 days.
They did business in the offseason, bringing in striker Nikolai Baden Frederiksen from Juventus, midfielder Toni Domgjoni, as well as goalkeeper Markus Schubert from Shalke 04. They also brought back Lois Openda on loan from Brugge. after scoring 10 goals last season.
They reached the group stages of the Europa League as early as the 2017/18 season, whereas they lost to Basel in the second qualifying round three seasons ago.
According to the UEFA club rankings, Vitesse comes into the game in 146th position, around 20 places behind visitors to the GelreDome.
Speaking ahead of the game, Darragh Leahy highlighted Vinny Perth’s return to the club as a welcome gesture.
“Since Vinny’s return our form is a bit more stable and it’s another opportunity to play against a top team in Europe and we are really going to look forward to it,” he said.
The Lilywhites enter the game after back-to-back away wins in Europe – against Levadia and Newtown – and that will be the goal ahead of next week’s second leg in West Dublin.
Rovers look to bounce back in Conference League
The Shamrock Rovers’ domestic form has been solid, if not spectacular, having lost a few more games since Dundalk ended his league unbeaten run in late May.
Granted, they still lead the SSE Airtricity League, three ahead of St Patrick’s Athletic – which they beat 3-1 last week – and also until the FAI Cup second round after knocking out Galway.
They fought bravely to compete for Champions League progress last month, taking a two-goal lead after losing 2-0 to Bratislava in Slovakia.
A controversial winner of Vladimír Weiss, however, has ended his hopes in Europe’s first club competition, but he has the consolation of being in the Champions section of the Conference League.
One man The Hoops could do without is Liam Scales, the defender who is the subject of a € 600,000 offer from Celtic. Although manager Stephen Bradley confirmed on Wednesday that Arklow’s man should be available.
Forward Graham Burke, who scored against Slovan, is expected to be back after missing the win over St Pat’s with injury.
Who are Tueta Durres?
Albanian team Tueta Durres arrived in this round by beating Inter Club d’Escaldes d’Androrre, a team that Dundalk beat in the Europa League qualifiers last season by a goal to zero (Covid-19 meant a first leg).
Tueta had to do it the hard way on the last lap. They lost the home game 2-0 but forced overtime after winning 2-0 in the second leg at Estadio Nacional. Albanian international Sherif Kallaku would prove to the hero, scoring the decisive goal – a penalty – within the extra 30 minutes.
Like Rovers, they left the Champions League in the first qualifying round, but their loss was not up for debate as they were completely put to death, 5-0 on aggregate, by Sheriff Tiraspol.
They won last season’s Kategoria Superiore on goal difference, but the new season won’t start until September 9, so they might lack the game-sharpness the Rovers will have.
Midfielder Kallaku – the man who scored this winner in the last round – is an important player for them. He scored 14 goals for Tueta two seasons ago, which saw him move to NK Lokomotiva Zagreb in Croatia. But he is back with the Albanian champions on loan.
Forward Pepi Gorgiev spent last season with Sileks Kratovo in the North Macedonian top flight, scoring 13 goals as the club were relegated.
Tueta’s European progress has been scarce, despite passing Beitar Jerusalem in the first round of the Europa League qualifiers last season. They have also beaten Valletta (Malta) this century, as well as the aforementioned overtime victory over Inter Club d’Escaldes.
“We’ve watched a lot of their games and we know they’re dangerous,” said Stephen Bradley.
“They have very good technical players in the offensive end of the pitch. Lots of movement, lots of rotations and high quality players. We know it will be a tough tie, but it’s a game we are really looking forward to. . to and we are ready for.
“We’re in very good shape and it’s a game we’re really looking forward to. It excites us, and we have to try to make it another special European night in Tallaght.”
The winner of this meeting will face the loser of the qualifying match for the Europa League between Omonia (Cyprus) and Flora (Estonia). It is therefore a great chance for the Hoops to get closer to a return to a European group stage a decade after their group appearance in the Europa League.
The Elbasan Arena will host the second leg next Thursday.