Despite a growing list of concerns, Liam Buckley insists that his Saint Patrick's Athletic FC side "have enough good talent" to overcome Legia Warszawa in their UEFA Champions League second qualifying round decider.
The Dublin club gave themselves a superb chance thanks to a 1-1 draw in Warsaw, Christy Fagan scoring a first-half opener before the hosts rallied in added time. That vital away goal has spread optimism, and St Pat's are hopeful of completing a famous victory on Wednesday. As Fagan, a former Manchester United FC trainee, underlined: "It's all to play for in the home leg.
"Legia have to win the game and we can go out not to lose, but we won't be playing for a 0-0 draw," added Buckley. "We can do it; we have enough good talent in our group. Collectively, we know what we're about. If we're at it on Wednesday, we'll win."
Legia are just one of the obstacles St Pat's must tackle, however. The Irish champions impressed in Poland, but their domestic form remains a concern, and with just one win from the last four league games, Buckley's outfit lie nine points off the pace in the Premier Division. That said, Legia have domestic woes of their own, having lost the opening game of their league season.
Fans and players alike are also uncomfortable with the fact that St Pat's have had to switch venues for the tie. Due to a larger anticipated crowd, the hosts will contest the match at Tallaght Stadium – a larger ground than their traditional Richmond Park home, where they have beaten teams such as IF Elfsborg, PFC Krylya Sovetov Samara and FC Shakhter Karagandy in UEFA competition.
In contrast, St Pat's have lost to the likes of FC Steaua Bucureşti, FC Karpaty Lviv and Hannover 96 when forced to move to bigger Dublin venues for third qualifying round games. "It's a little disappointing that we have to play there, but that's the decision that's been made," said Brendan Clarke, goalkeeper and lifelong supporter of the club.
There is a possibility too that, due to the large Polish population in Ireland, Legia's supporters may well outnumber their counterparts in Dublin. "We need more fans there than Legia," explained Clarke. "That would give us a real boost."
The reward for victory could be a high-profile meeting with Celtic FC in the third qualifying round, but Buckley sees that prospect as another potential danger – despite his own excitement at the possibility of facing the Scottish title holders. "We've got 90 minutes to make sure we stay in the tie or else we'll be out of this competition," he stressed. "We can't afford to give ourselves too much time to think about Celtic."
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