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Hoops are cautious

Rovers boss Bradley taking nothing for granted ahead of Europa tie with Ilves

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Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley

Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley

SPORTSFILE

Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley

After disappointing defeats in the European stage for local rivals Dundalk and Derry City, the burden of expectation falls on Shamrock Rovers when they host little-known Finnish side Ilves Tampere behind closed doors at Tallaght Stadium tonight.

And manager Stephen Bradley has already warned his squad against complacency in a tie which the Hoops are expected to win and progress to Monday's draw for the second round of the Europa League.

While Rovers are regulars on the European stage and have six current or former senior internationals in their squad, Ilves only qualified by winning the Finnish Cup and are competing in Europe for only the second time in almost 30 years.

Confidence

Of the four Irish entrants in UEFA competition this summer, the Hoops appear best-placed to win through but Bradley has urged caution.

"I don't think Irish clubs or clubs in general can approach any European game like that and think it's an easy game," he says, plans for the game complicated by a suspension for defender Lee Grace, carried over from last year's Europa League campaign.

"There is an argument for the other side that maybe you need that little bit of confidence and arrogance, but we're confident against anyone, we've shown that in Europe in the last few years.

"But I don't think we can get dragged into thinking there are easy draws. I think as soon as you think that you're in trouble. Do we look at certain teams and certain draws and think you'd want that one?

"Of course you do, because certain teams are made to play against you the way they set up, the players they have in their team. But I don't think anyone can think 'We've got a nice draw here'," he added.

New rules related to Covid-19 make this a one-off tie, to be settled over 90 minutes tonight, while travel restrictions mean that Bradley was not able to get himself or one of his staff to see Ilves in the flesh, instead having to rely on video evidence.

"I don't think that you can beat actually seeing them live and getting a real feel for them," he says. "It's really hard to get a real gauge on them. We've seen a lot of games obviously but going to see them live you get a real feel for them. Obviously they are in the same boat as us but it is different."

Defender Roberto Lopes, a senior international with Cape Verde and a European veteran with Rovers, admits that the one-off nature of the game changes the complexion of the tie.

"There will be less of a feeling-out period so you will probably see both teams going for it a bit more because there's no sense of trying to hang on for a draw and then 'get them at home and see what we can do'.

"So it could be a really exciting game with both teams going for it," he says, aware that individual errors can be costly.

"They are massive and going back to our game last year in Cyprus, I felt that we probably should have won the tie. It was little errors that you get punished for but that's what is expected at the level you are at playing against good teams in Europe.

"So we have to be at our very best and really be at it from the first whistle. They could come straight at us as it's a one leg tie, so we must be ready for anything," Lopes added.

  • Europa League: Shamrock Rovers v Ilves Tampere (8.0)