Despite Dundalk's inability to either win or score in last week’s first leg, head coach Vinny Perth’s optimism is justified going into tonight's deciding second leg with Riga.
The two sides played out a scoreless draw in the first leg of this Champions League qualifier at Oriel Park last Wednesday and a place in the second qualifying round awaits the winner at the Skonto Stadium, (kick-off 5:30pm, Irish time).
A potential fixture against Albanian champions FK Partizani or Qarabag of Azerbaijan awaits Perth’s side in the second qualifying round, yet first up they face a tricky test in the Latvian capital against a side who will take great confidence from last week’s performance and result at the home of the League of Ireland champions.
That game, in truth, was a poor spectacle with the normally free-flowing Dundalk restricted and frustrated by a defence-minded Riga outfit.
A powerful, well-organised Riga limited Dundalk’s chances throughout the game and perhaps could have snatched an all-important away goal following their positive finish to the game.
Dundalk head coach Perth confirmed after the game that the visitors came and played exactly as expected, yet his own side’s gameplan was not implemented as the hosts failed to breach the Riga defence and rarely troubled goalkeeper Roberts Ozols.
But Perth’s confidence emanates from the fact that as the home side, the onus will certainly be on Riga to come out and play on the front foot in the second leg.
As a result, there should be a lot more space in behind the Riga formation for Dundalk to exploit and if they can kick into that free-flowing mode that we have become accustomed to, the goalscoring opportunities will surely present themselves.
Dundalk have been boosted and strengthened in recent weeks with the return of key players, and while their league form appeared to benefit from the return of Robbie Benson, who had been out since the start of the season and defender Andy Boyle (above) re-signing for the club, Perth must get his selection right for the Riga clash.
The manager admitted after the first leg that he knew Jamie McGrath would not last the full 90 minutes, while Patrick McEleney played the entire game with a heavily strapped leg, so perhaps there will be an element of regret with how things transpired at Oriel.
Boyle benefitted from Chris Shields injury to return to the back four for the second half and put in a commanding performance, which will make Perth rethink his defence ahead of the game.
Shields remains a doubt as he recovers from that facial injury, while Michael Duffy did not travel with the squad due to family reasons, as the birth of his child is imminent.
Duffy is expected to be involved in the matchday squad in Riga but again the manager will have to factor in his disrupted preparations ahead of selecting his starting XI.
And Dundalk must really prepare to be patient as there is no real indication that Riga will come out with all guns blazing in the opening exchanges.
The first half of this deciding clash will probably prove just as cagey as the Oriel Park equivalent as Riga will be wary that a Dundalk away goal could really put them under pressure.
"I think their big open grass pitch might suit us better and they will have to be a bit more expansive, so I see a lot of positives," said Perth, following the first leg, which was played on Dundalk’s artificial surface.
Dundalk will, no doubt, benefit from playing on a surface conducive to attacking football and while this again adds to the positives ahead of the game, the club are doing the team no favours when the head coach thinks his side can play better away from home.
It really is not a coincidence that the Lilywhites’ two best home results in Europe in recent years, beating BATE Borisov 3-0 and Maccabi Tel-Aviv 1-0, both came when they played at the expansive grass pitch of Tallaght Stadium.
Dundalk will also have to compete on a physical level before they can allow their football to take over, as this Riga side’s best attribute is their physicality and fitness, which helped thwart Perth’s side at home.
Riga also have pace in abundance on the flanks with Joel Bopesu in particular causing real problems down the left flank.
Roman Debelko is a real handful up front and with the experienced Deniss Rakels expected to start in place of the ineffective Roger, the home side will remain a threat going forward, even if they again rely on counterattacking football.
Perth believes that his current squad are finally starting to reap the benefits of the experience players from previous campaign combining with the new players at the club.
But if Dundalk are to harbour ambitions of an extended run in Europe this season, they will certainly have to gel quite quickly once kick-off comes around in Riga.
"European nights are often solved in the second half of the second leg," said Perth.
And this time around, it is imperative that Dundalk have the capability to spring an impact sub into proceedings come the latter stages of this encounter.
Georgie Kelly was left sitting alongside the substitutes as Dundalk were crying out for an extra striker at the end of the first game.
Shields' unexpected injury snookered Perth to a certain extent on that front in the first leg, but the coach really must prepare to make sure that he at least has that option tonight.
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