Dundalk will need to score at least once against Slovan Bratislava in Tallaght Stadium on Tuesday night (kick-off 8pm) if they are to continue their European odyssey and progress to the Europa League play-off round.
The first leg of this third qualifying round tie at the magnificent Tehelne Pole stadium last week saw Dundalk go down by a single goal to Slovan four minutes from time with David Holman grabbing the winner.
Although the Lilywhites created their fair share of chances, things could have been a whole lot worse if not for a couple of excellent saves from their veteran goalkeeper Gary Rogers in the second half.
“We are in a decent position. It could be better, but it could have been a lot worse, so we are happy where we are. These are great occasions to be a part of,” Rogers told his club’s official website.
“We all want to be a part of them as a player. We have a chance to qualify for the play-off round of European competition which is where we all want to be. We want to progress to the next round. We are in a good place and hopefully we can get there.”
Chances on the night from Michael Duffy, Sean Murray, Jamie McGrath and John Mountney should be enough to suggest that Dundalk can overturn this tie when the second leg takes place in Tallaght on Tuesday.
“We were disappointed to concede late last week but we showed great courage. We created a couple of chances after that goal went in. We score one of those and it is a different game, but we are 1-0 down and we have to overturn that,” continued Rogers.
“Tallaght has been good to us over the years. We have had league wins here and won the title. As well as that, we have had some great European nights that we can draw on. We have the experience and we know what we have to do.
“The tie is in the balance at the moment, but we are ready for it. We know what we are capable of. We can go and win the game. We have to and we will have to be at our best.
“It is a very winnable tie for us. We know we can turn it around and that is how we will view it. We know we can get through and if we can keep a clean sheet it will give us a platform to go and win the game.”
In team news, Robbie Benson hasn’t yet recovered from the rib injury he sustained in the home match against Qarabag three weeks ago and misses out once again for Vinny Perth’s side, while both Jordan Flores and Stephen Folan also remain injured having missed every European game thus far.
The Slovakian side’s preparation for this match has not been helped by the fact that their flight to Dublin was delayed one hour due to air traffic control problems in the neighbouring Czech Republic.
Slovan eventually made it to the Irish capital and took part in a training session at Tallaght Stadium on Monday, not too long after manager Jan Kozak had addressed the media for a press conference.
Despite coming into this second leg with a 1-0 lead, Slovan’s caretaker manager insists that his side will not just sit back, but also attack in pursuit of what would more than likely be a killer away goal.
“We know we're ahead in the game, but we can't play completely defensive. That wouldn't be right,” said Kozak.
“Certainly, we will place emphasis on consistent defensive activity but at the same time, we must be active and dangerous up front. We know what game we play and how we play. We need to play sensibly and find a way to be successful and bring home the result.”
The big team news from the Slovan camp is that Moroccan winger Moha Rharsalla, who looked dangerous in the first leg, hasn’t travelled to Ireland with the squad because of an upset stomach.
Hungarian international David Holman, who scored the game’s only goal last week, hobbled off in the 4-0 league win over Zlate Moravce on Saturday, but did take part in Monday’s training session.
Referee: Robert Schorgenhofer (Austria).
Dundalk haven’t lost both legs of a European tie since 2010 when Levski Sofia thrashed them 6-0 in Bulgaria before recording a 2-0 win at Oriel Park a week later in the Europa League second qualifying round.
Slovan Bratislava may be a club steeped in European history, but Dundalk are currently higher in the UEFA club rankings. The Lilywhites are 126th as of now, while Slovan find themselves 38 places lower in 164th.
This particular tie represents the third time that Slovan have faced League of Ireland opposition. They knocked St Patrick’s Athletic and UCD out of this very same competition in 1996 and 2015 respectively.
Dundalk 2/1; Draw 19/10; Slovan Bratislava EVS
Dundalk 3 - 1 Slovan Bratislava
Injured: Robbie Benson, Jordan Flores, Stephen Folan.
Injured: Moha Rharsalla.
Doubtful: David Holman.