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Tuesday 20 November 2018

Caulfield: Cork's Champions test 'enormous'

John Caulfield
John Caulfield

John Caulfield is around the game long enough to know that his Cork City side have a lot of work to do if they are to get past Legia Warsaw and into the next round of the Champions League.

But the Munster outfit still stands to gain at least €800,000 from European competition this summer and are guaranteed to be still in Europe in mid-August as, should they lose to Legia in the Champions League, they have been given a bye to the third qualifying round of the Europa League.

That would leave City just one stage short of the Europa League group stage and they will pocket €280,000 from UEFA for competing in the third round, their overall UEFA revenue inching towards the €1m mark.

Cork are not giving up on the Champions League, though, and City know what awaits them in the second qualifying round: should they beat Legia, they'd play the winners from the first-round tie between Spartak Trnava (Slovakia) and Zrinjski Mostar (Bosnia).

Beating Legia will not be easy: the Polish side did have a scare in their battles with St Patrick's Athletic (2014) and Dundalk (2016) but still advanced and Caulfield knows it's a big ask to knock out the Polish champions.

"The scale of the team we're playing is enormous, with international players and the fact that they are the top team in Poland," says Caulfield.

"But at the same time, we have acquitted ourselves in Europe over the last number of years, we're all looking forward to it.

"There were other teams there that could have given us a stronger possibility of getting through, this is the toughest draw, but we'll look forward to it. That's what being in the Champions League is about."

Legia have been less than stable since the beat Dundalk two years ago as current boss Dean Klafuric is their fourth manager since they beat Dundalk 3-1 on aggregate.

They won the league title on the final day of last season in dramatic circumstances as their final match, away to bitter rivals Lech Loznan, was abandoned due to crowd disturbances with 20 minutes to go but Legia were awarded a 3-0 win and landed the title.

They have two players in Russia with Poland's World Cup squad, including keeper Adam Malarz, who began the tournament as back-up to Wojciech Szczesny, though his place will be under scrutiny after yesterday's loss to Senegal. Defender Michal Pazdan started against Senegal and he may not be available to the club for the Cork City tie.

The rest of the Legia squad have been back in pre-season training for the last week and the ambitious club will be targeting progress to the group stages.

"There is no doubt that they're probably trilled with the draw. From that point of view, you'd hope that they might underestimate us," added Caulfield.

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