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We'll relish it as pressure on Milan: Burke

Zlatan's an all-time great but we can't let this game pass us by

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PRESSURE OFF: Shamrock Rovers’ Graham Burke at Tallaght Stadium ahead of AC Milan’s visit tomorrow night who will be fronted by superstar Zlatan
Ibrahimovic. Photo: SPORTSFILE

PRESSURE OFF: Shamrock Rovers’ Graham Burke at Tallaght Stadium ahead of AC Milan’s visit tomorrow night who will be fronted by superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Photo: SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

PRESSURE OFF: Shamrock Rovers’ Graham Burke at Tallaght Stadium ahead of AC Milan’s visit tomorrow night who will be fronted by superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Photo: SPORTSFILE

He rubbed shoulders with no less a figure than Kilian Mbappé on the occasion of his international debut and wastes no time in selecting the Frenchman as his most difficult opponent.

But Shamrock Rovers man Graham Burke knows that he truly will be mixing the great and the good when his side face up to AC Milan in a Europa League clash in Dublin tomorrow night.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is expected to travel, and start, for Milan, even though an injury concern forced him to sit out the club's two pre-season games to date.

His is the name that leaps off the page when a Milan official hands in their team-sheet tomorrow night but while the rest of the squad may lack that world-wide status bestowed on the Swede, Burke expects to see some hallowed boots to trot out on the turf tomorrow.

"These are going to be the best players that we have ever played against and the best players who have graced the Tallaght football pitch," says Burke.

If they were bothered, Cristiano Ronaldo and Alessandro del Piero might argue that point with Burke as the played in the Dublin venue a decade ago but the Rovers attacker still puts the Milan side up on a pedastal.

"There are so many options that they have and one of the greatest strikers to ever play football is playing up front," he added.

"People might not think that because of 2005 and the team they (Milan) had then, with world-class stars, but this is going to be the highest level of football that we have played against.

"You're up against players who are worth millions and millions and millions of pounds.

"I'm sure AC Milan are not going to sign players who are not great players."

Burke had his own brush with greatness in Paris in 2018, in the Ireland shirt.

"The one that stands out was my international debut for Ireland, against France, I could pick five or six players on the pitch but the one that sticks out is Mbappé," Burke says.

"The sharpness of him, you look at that and think, he's the creme de la creme of football players, it was unbelievable to watch. You see players but then you see him and think, that's amazing to watch."

Of course that was a friendly, this game tomorrow is a competitive game and Burke's team-mates cannot afford to stand back and admire the men from Milan.

He knows the Rovers players have to put aside the magnitude of the opposition and focus, nor not let the game pass them by, in Burke's words.

"I think all the pressure is on AC Milan. For us it's a game to relish, going out to try and beat such a team as AC Milan. If you ask anyone who has the most pressure on them, it's AC Milan," he says.

"Football is a game of enjoyment, if you put too much pressure on yourself going into things and thinking about things it gets complicated.

A game like that is all about enjoyment. "You need to have discipline and work hard but you go into it with a bit of freedom and try to play your own game.

"It's going to be a game you look back on when you retire, will always stick out for you, whether you played well in the game or played bad you want to remember the game and not think as one that got away from you.

"There will be a lot of defending we'll have to do, try and play our game, whether we can play our game as free-flowing as we normally do.

"It's an unbelievable occasion, you just want to try and enjoy it.

"It's completely different to the teams we play against domestically. You're talking about Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan, some of the biggest clubs in the world.

"You come to play them in Tallaght and I don't think there is too much pressure on us.

"If we do win, it's going to be the biggest upset in Irish football history. It's going to be a brilliant occasion.

"It's about enjoying that sort of game because you might never get it again in your life.

"I have nerves going into games, but it's not [thinking] it's AC Milan or whatever, it's an enjoyment thing.

"As a kid you play football to enjoy it, you just go out and enjoy it... and I play on the edge anyway, I am always a moment away from being red carded or yellow carded.

"It's a lot of aggression in a way, it's not nerves or tension, I want to do as well as I possibly can, help the team as best I can, it's to try and enjoy it."

Europa League Shamrock Rovers v AC Milan Live RTE TV (Tomorrow, 7pm)