Linfield manager David Healy believes his side are ready to roar again in Europe after losing to Bodø/Glimt.
The Blues arrived with high hopes after their stunning 1-0 win at Windsor Park against the Norwegian champions, but the script was torn up and thrown away as the ruthless hosts stormed to an 8-0 win.
Linfield, who lost top scorer Kirk Millar to an early red card in the first leg, is now in the third qualifying phase of the Europa League with FC Zurich as the next hurdle.
The Swiss champions are in Belfast tonight (7.45pm) for the first leg and the winners know they will face Hearts in the play-offs whilst securing at least a place in the group stage of the Europa Conference League.
The loser meets the unseeded winner of the Europa Conference between RFS (Latvia) and Hibernians (Malta).
Amid fears of mental resonance and battered confidence, Healy is confident his troops will be back in fighting shape for another big test.
“We’ve been in the swamp at times and faced challenges and questions that were thrown at us,” he said.
“None of these challenges have materialized so far. We keep hearing about people wanting to knock Linfield off the shelf, but we haven’t seen that domestically.
“Has the trust suffered? This is always possible when you lose a game.
“First and foremost we came out of a competition we wanted to stay in and after our performance in the first leg we had hope, but sometimes you have to recognize the level you’re up against and be realistic.
“These teams don’t let you off the hook. If they have you by the throat, they’ll do what they can.
“Thanks to Bodø. Myself and my staff acknowledged their recklessness in harming us when we were already on the ground.
“It’s something we’ve tried to do as a club and I want us to get better at burying teams and letting them know we’re better than them. Bodø did very well last week (against us).”
Healy knew his men faced a formidable challenge against the Scandinavian stars, but he’s not quite sure what to expect from FC Zurich.
With new manager Franco Foda trying to implement his ideas and an uninspiring start to the title defense that took just one point from their first three games, there may be reason to encourage the Blues.
“If you look at the resistance, people will ask if Zurich is as good as Bodø?” explained Northern Ireland’s record goalscorer.
“I don’t know, but they have a very experienced coach, an ex-player who is new to the job after the previous coach (André Breitenreiter) left for Hoffenheim.
“He’s probably still at the beginning of what he wants to achieve, staff have moved from the league to Europe and they’re harder to predict.
“At Bodø we knew who would be most in the starting XI. What Zürich have are experienced players and winners, champions Switzerland and if Northern Ireland played Switzerland or Norway we would be underdogs.
“Some of the Swiss and Norwegian teams have been in the group stages of the Champions League and Europa League over the years. We know the levels we are dealing with.”
Linfield might be a little hurt from her adventures in Norway, but one thing that hasn’t changed is her mindset and swagger at Windsor Park.
“We’re proud of our home record, we never lost or were down a game last season,” Healy continued.
“We had a strong home record last season and the European games here have a great atmosphere.
“Players have yet to perform and I have no doubt that with the players we have we still feel like these are bonus games after beating TNS in the first round.
“I don’t want to put an end to the game in Norway, we’ve already done that. The game went against us in terms of the early goal and being sent off.
“It’s something we talked about, if you have a worst case scenario and you find yourself 1-0 and less than 10 men and they score, it couldn’t have been worse.
“There are a few negatives, but also positives about the two legs. Some people and clubs have been playing European football for 10 or 20 years and never win a European game. We won two out of two at Windsor and didn’t concede a goal.
“We played against an improving team in Bodø that has shed bigger teams and managers than us in recent years and their shares are going up.
“Of course it’s disappointing to lose the game, but there’s no point in feeling sorry for yourself.
“The deeper you get into competition, the more likely you are to face a tougher opponent and we found that out against Bodø last week.”
Linfield defender Daniel Finlayson is also delighted with another chance to earn the club a historic place in the group stage.
“We’re really looking forward to the game after a disappointing game last week,” he said.
“But we can take a lot of positives from the last duel when we beat them at home, which shows that we are a good team at home and can take on anyone.
“The guys are ready for that and we expect to go out there and get a result.”
https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/sport/football/irish-league/linfield/linfield-boss-david-healy-hopes-to-home-in-on-a-big-euro-result-against-zurich-at-windsor-park-41888668.html Linfield boss David Healy hopes to home in on a big Euro result against Zurich at Windsor Park