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Saturday 21 July 2018

Hoops dream of a Swede success

Europa League Shamrock Rovers v AIK (Tallaght Stadium, KO 7.05)

EURO VISION: The European experience of Ronan Finn (left) will be a big boost tonight for Shamrock Rovers in their Europa League clash with AIK. Rovers boss Stephen Bradley will have no qualms about playing 16-year-old keeper Gavin Bazunu (right) in the tie. Pic: Sportsfile
EURO VISION: The European experience of Ronan Finn (left) will be a big boost tonight for Shamrock Rovers in their Europa League clash with AIK. Rovers boss Stephen Bradley will have no qualms about playing 16-year-old keeper Gavin Bazunu (right) in the tie. Pic: Sportsfile

In four attempts over 40 years of hurt, Shamrock Rovers have never managed to get past Scandinavian opposition on the European stage.

And Hoops boss Stephen Bradley admits that it could be a difficult night for his side this evening when they face up to AIK, the Stockholm side who currently top the league table back in Sweden.

The mood in the Rovers camp is positive, thanks to good results domestically, the impressive form of 16-year-old keeper Gavin Bazunu as well as new additions Dylan Watts and Alan Mannus.

History is (partially) on their side as Rovers have got past the first-round hurdle in two of their three most recent Euro campaigns. But those successes came against opposition from Luxembourg and Iceland and Bradley knows that AIK, who have 12 senior internationals in their squad, pose a threat on a different level.

"I have been to see them, Stephen McPhail went to see them last weekend. They are a very good side and we know it's going to be a tough night," says Bradley.

"They are well organised and tactically really good, dangerous attacking wise and don't give away many goals.

"They have some dangerous attacking players and can score goals from all over the pitch," he added, admitting that Rovers need all of their nous to frustrate the Swedes.

"We will attack when we can, it's not going to be one of these games where you go gung-ho for 90 minutes, because they are too good for that and will punish you," he stated.

"When the time is right in the game and you are having a little spell then you have to try and make it count.You cannot open up from the first to 90th minute because you will get punished."

Bradley says he would have no issue in starting teenage keeper Bazunu in a game of this importance. "If I had reservations then I would not have played him down in Cork. That was a tough game for him to play in at 16 years of age but it does not faze him so I have no issues with playing Gavin anywhere or in any game."

Outside of the goalkeeping position and whether to start his teen, Bradley has some other team issues to mull over.

Brandon Miele is out for a month after suffering a knee injury in training, while new signing Aaron Greene lacks match fitness and may not be involved but Dylan Watts could come in for his debut.

AIK arrive in Dublin in a buoyant mood, top of the Swedish league table and unbeaten in 13 games.

Coach Rikard Norling is unable to include new signing Seb Larsson as he's still on extended leave following World Cup duties in Russia but the AIK boss still has an embarrassment of riches, with 12 senior internationals in his squad including Kristoffer Olsson (Sweden) and Tarik Elyounoussi (Norway).

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