Wednesday, 22 June 2022

LINFIELD v THE NEW SAINTS - CHAMPIONS LEAGUE PREVIEW

Linfield FC have a rich history in UEFA competition dating back to 1959 but this is the first time they have played a Welsh club in Europe! 

Their best recent result is probably the 3-2 home win over Azerbaijani club Qarabag in the 2019/20 UEFA Europa League play-off round. Their opponents, who had played in the Champions League group stages in 17/18 which included two draws against Atletico Madrid, went through on away goals after a 2-1 home win. 

EUROPEAN HISTORY
Their best performance came in the 1966/67 European Cup when they reached the Quarter-Final lost to CSKA Cherveno Zname  (now known as CSKA Sofia). 

LAST SEASON IN EUROPE 
Lost 2-5 on aggregate to Zalgris (Lithuania) in Champions League 1st QR before beating Borac Banja Luka 4-0 on agg (Bosnia & Herzegovina) in the 2nd QR of the Conference League. They then lost to Fola Esch (Luxembourg) in the 3rd QR 2-4 on aggregate.

LAST SEASON IN DANSKE BANK PREMIERSHIP 
Linfield were champions of Danske Bank Premiership by just one point from Cliftonville which was a World Record 56th league title win for the club. They had to wait until the final day of the season and it was the first time in 35 years that a club had won four consecutive titles. It was the narrowest title winning margin since the 08/09 season when Glentoran pipped Linfield by just one point. They were knocked out by Larne, who finished 5th in the league, in the Second Round of the Irish Cup. 

THE MANAGER 
Former Northern Ireland International David Healy has been in charge of the club he supported as boy since 2015. The Blue have finished 2nd, 1st, 4th, 1st, 1st, 1st and 1st in the table since he took over - They have also won the Irish Cup twice and The League Cup once. He is probably best known by football fans in England from his playing time with Preston NE, Leeds United, Fulham and Sunderland. 

THE SQUAD 
Linfield's squad is, as you would expect, made up mainly of Northern Irish players aside from one English defender in Sam Roscoe who joined from Scottish Championship side Ayr United last summer. Two players from the Republic of Ireland are midfielder Chris Shields and defender Connor Pepper are also included. 

DR Congo player Christy Manzinga was the top scorer in the Danske Bank Premiership last season scoring 17 goals in 26 games. The former Motherwell striker recently left the club and is currently unattached. 

They have made two signings this pre-season recruiting Joel Cooper from League One side Oxford United. He returns to the club he was with between 2018 to 2020 and on loan in the second half on the 20/21 season. 

Twenty-One year old defender Daniel Finlayson has joined on loan from St Mirren after spending time on loan with Scottish League Two side Kelty Hearts last season. 

PRE-SEASON RESULTS & FIXTURES 
Tuesday 21st June - QATAR W 1-0
(Chris McKee) 
Saturday 25th June - NEWTOWN 
Saturday 2nd July - ST MIRREN 

You will notice an eye-catching result in Linfield beating International side Qatar 1-0 just a few months before the World Cup 2022. The game played in Marbella was settled via an early Chris McKee goal. 
The New Saints of Oswestry Town & Llansantffraid Football Club as they are officially known are the most successful club in Welsh League football history which obviously excludes the clubs such as Cardiff City and Swansea City who play in the English football system. 

Formed as Llansantffraid FC in 1959 they played in the lower leagues in Wales until the 1993 as Champions of the Cymru Alliance they gained promotion to the League Of Wales for the 93/94 season. In 1996 they were renamed Total Network Solutions after a sponsorship deal with a local computer company being renamed Total Network Solutions Lllansantffraid and then just Total Network Solutions. In 2003 they merged with English club Oswestry Town who were then playing in the League of Wales and with British Telecom taking over the computer firm they were renamed The New Saints in 2006. 

EUROPEAN HISTORY
Since the year 2000 TNS have played in European competition every season in either The Champions League or Europa League with Conference League last season. They have played Northern Irish opponents twice before - In the 11/12 Europa League 1st QR they drew 1-1 at home to Cliftonville before winning 1-0 away from home. Last season they beat Glentoran 3-1 on aggregate in the 1st QR of the Conference League. 

LAST SEASON IN EUROPE 
After beating Glentoran they then comfortably beat Lithuanian club Kauno Zalgiris 10-1 on aggregate before losing  on penalty kicks to Czech side Viktoria Plzen. They won 4-2 at home before losing 3-1 away which made the aggregate scored 5-5. 

LAST SEASON IN THE CYMRU PREMIER 
The New Saints topped the division by 21 points to Bala Town who were their nearest challengers. The title win was their fourteenth since joining the division in 1993. They suffered only 2 defeats in their 32 games played - they came at home to Newtown and away at Aberystwyth Town. They also won the Welsh Cup for the eighth time in their history. 

THE MANAGER 
Australian Anthony Limbrick took over in April 2021 following the dismissal of Scott Roscoe who had been in charge since 2017 after playing for the club over 300 times from 2002 to 2016. He became the first Australian Manager to win a top-flight European title around a month prior to Ange Postecoglou winning the Scottish title with Celtic. 

He was Michael Jolley and Ian Holloway's assistant at Grimsby Town in from the summer of 2018 to September 2020. 

He also spent a short time in charge of Woking from May 2017 and April 2018. 

Limbrick has also coached at Wingate and Finchley, Southampton and West Ham United as well as the England Under 17's. 

THE SQUAD 
As expected for a team on the border their squad is a mixture of English and Welsh players with one Scottish player in forward Declan McManus who signed from Dunfermline Athletic last summer. The 27 year old scored 24 goals in 28 league games last season which repaid some of the £60,000 fee the club paid for him. 

Polish winger/attacker Adrian CieĹ›lewicz has been with the club since 2014 when he joined after short spell playing football in the Faroe Islands with B36 Torshavn. He previously played for Kidderminster Harriers and Wrexham after coming through the Manchester City academy. 

Jordan Williams joined from Stockport County last summer scoring 15 goals in 31 league games as well as two goals in the Welsh Cup Final with McManus scoring the other. 

PRE-SEASON RESULTS & FIXTURES 
Sat 11th June - ELLESMERE RANGERS W 8-2 
(Adrian Cieslewicz, Leo Smith 2, Chris Marriott, OG, Declan McManus 2, Ryley Oakley) 
Tue 21st June - BALA TOWN W 5-1 
(Adrian Cieslewicz 2, Ben Clark, Jordan Williams, Nick Grogan) 
Sat 25th June - WARRINGTON RYLANDS 
Sun 26th June - CLIFTONVILLE 
Wed 29th June - Larne 

WHEN DO THE GAMES TAKE PLACE? 
Tuesday 5th July - THE NEW SAINTS v LINFIELD 
Wednesday 13th July - LINFIELD v THE NEW SAINTS 

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