Legia's Nikolić wary of wounded Dundalk

Forward Nemanja Nikolić insists "the battle has not been won yet" as Legia look to press home their 2-0 advantage against Dundalk and clinch a UEFA Champions League return.

Nemanja Nikolić (centre) has struck five goals in qualifying this term
Nemanja Nikolić (centre) has struck five goals in qualifying this term ©Marek Biczyk

Legia Warszawa forward Nemanja Nikolić is taking nothing for granted as the Polish side target a UEFA Champions League group stage place holding a 2-0 lead against Dundalk in their play-off tie.

The Hungary international scored a 56th-minute penalty in Dublin last Wednesday, his fifth in this season's competition, before Aleksandar Prijovic doubled Legia's cushion in added time.

However, while Dundalk's hopes of becoming the first Irish club to reach the group stage have shrivelled, Nikolić – who scored 28 goals in 37 league appearances last season – is not prepared to write them off.

"The two away goals and the fact we kept a clean sheet are important," he said. "We stayed defensive in the first half and waited for our opportunities. We cannot lose focus or feel as if we are comfortably going to progress – it's not over yet."

The 28-year-old is therefore expecting Legia to change little in their approach for Tuesday's return game. "We don't get nervous; we just try to play without being risky. We like to be cautious and play with just one striker. Dundalk always feature in European football – they beat BATE Borisov, a very good side – but we know more about them now, which will help."

Fellow scorer Prijovic is likewise convinced that focus will be key, and applauded Dundalk for their classy brand of football. "We had the perfect start to this play-off and it's a big step forward for us, but the battle has not been won yet. Anything can happen in 90 minutes," he explained.

"We didn't think Dundalk would be easy to beat. They place nice football – we were expecting long balls, but it was pleasantly surprising to see just how well they play."

For their Irish rivals, it is a different state of affairs. Dundalk are guaranteed a UEFA Europa League group stage place if they fail to overcome Legia on Polish turf, yet that remains their prime objective.

Manager Stephen Kenny will nonetheless have to make do without captain Stephen O'Donnell, who misses the game through suspension, and will perhaps call on Chris Shields for a big performance in central midfield.

Nikolić, meanwhile, stayed tight-lipped over rumours that he may be set for a high-profile move away from the club, insisting his priority remains helping Legia clinch their first UEFA Champions League group stage berth since they progressed to the quarter-finals in 1995/96.

"For sure I will play in this second game. I want to be there to help Legia reach the group stage. After, we'll see what happens."

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