The Irish League’s Champions League representatives Linfield will be hoping for a cup shock in Warsaw this evening. Their qualifying round tie being played over only one leg rather than two, potentially increases their chances, although manager David Healy wouldn’t be drawn.
“Well it doesn’t make it any more difficult. The most disappointing thing for us is when you come to a big club and stadium of this stature you hope there is a passionate home support. It can make the game more enjoyable.”
As always the Blues can be relied upon to make a decent fist of a significant Euro challenge this evening, but carrying off a place in the next round of Europe’s premier club competition is still likely to be a bridge too far.
“Legia are probably as good as we’ve faced so we know it will be tough, but it’s also a game we should embrace and enjoy,” said Healy when speaking to Belfast Live.
“It’ll be a big ask and we’re under no illusions, but it’s a one off tie in front of no fans so who knows - football sometimes works in mysterious ways.”
Legia, traditionally known as the Polish Army club, have a decent European pedigree, reaching the semi-finals of both the European Cup (1969/70 when they lost to eventual winners, Feyenoord) and the European Cup Winners’ Cup (1990/91 when they lost to eventual winners, Manchester United).
They also qualified for the group stages of the Champions League three seasons ago, when they had spectacular results losing 0-6 at home to Borussia Dortmund at home and 4-8 to the same opposition in the Westfalenstadion. They also held Real Madrid 3-3 in Stadion Wojska Polskiego (Polish Army Stadium) where Linfield will play tonight.
Surprisingly for a club that’s been involved in European competition since the fifties, Legia didn’t face British or Irish opposition until 1990/91 when they defeated Aberdeen 1-0 on aggregate in that run to the Cup Winners Cup semi-finals.
Against other British/Irish opposition, they have remained undefeated in ties against Blackburn Rovers, The New Saints and defeated Celtic home and away in 2013/14, only for their 2-0 victory at Parkhead to be overturned due to fielding an ineligible player causing forfeiture of the tie.
Manchester United managed to get the better of them in that 90/91 CWC semi-final as mentioned earlier, and they lost 0-1 on agg. to Rangers only last season.
They’ve never previously played a competitive fixture against a club from Northern Ireland and coincidentally Linfield, despite visiting 34 countries in 61 years of European competition, has never met a side from Poland.
Legia have met League of Ireland clubs on three occasions, and therein lies a ray of hope for the Blues. Legionisci has won each of the away legs comfortably, however struggled at their own Polish Army Stadium, only managing to draw 1-1 with both St Patrick’s Athletic and Dundalk, while Cork City only went down narrowly (0-1) on their visit to Warsaw.
It’s not the end of the road in Europe this evening for tonight’s losers. They will go into the Europa League second qualifying round draw.