Crusaders schemer Declan Caddell knows his side face a stiff challenge to wrestle the Danske Premier League title from last season’s champions Linfield when the skirmishes begin next month.
Manager Stephen Baxter’s side finished a creditable fourth last time of asking, but were quite a bit short — a total of 17 points to be precise — of David Healy’s men. Ballymena United were runners-up, you’ll remember, with Glenavon finishing third. You can expect those four to be in the mix again this campaign and don’t be surprised if the eventual champions come from that elite group.
But for the time being (well, until August 10 when the league action kicks off, anyway) thoughts of the league campaign must take a back seat as Crusaders gear up for a Europa League opening qualifying round tie up against B36 Torshavn at home tonight (they play the visitors back in the Faroe Islands next week in the return fixture).
And Caddell is happy to help his team-mates focus on the job in hand — with the promise of a prestigious game, a “dream tie” in fact, against Premier League side Wolverhampton Wanderers. He told the Belfast Telegraph that the prospect of going head to head with Nuno Espírito Santo’s men was a huge incentive to get through against the minnows from the Faroe Islands.
“The fact that Wolves are such a quality side with top players is incentive for us all, but our only focus right now has to be on B36 Torshavn. We have to concentrate on them and hopefully try and get the job done and then we can think about an incredible tie with Wolves. European football has always been important but, with the money Irish League clubs receive for playing in it and progressing, it has become even more vital.”
Meanwhile, there was huge disappointment for Linfield after a 2-0 reverse against Rosenborg in last night’s Champions League qualifier. Manager David Healy’s team missed out on making the advantage of being the home side count and it was the visitors who left Windsor Park with the spoils. Linfield face a big ask if they are to turn around the defeat and progress when the second game comes around next week.
The Norwegian outfit proved to be too strong for the home side and will go into the reverse fixture — which will be played at Rosenborg’s Lerkendal Stadium on July 17 — confident they can win the tie, thanks to goals from Mike Jensen and Alexander Soederlund.
The eventual victors will advance to the second-round of qualifiers where they will come up against BATE Borisov or Piast Gliwice with those two sides drawing 1-1 in the first leg of their tie.