EUROPA LEAGUE: Baxter relishing early return as Crusaders prepare for Latvia test

Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter. Pic by PressEye Ltd

Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter. Pic by PressEye Ltd

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Stephen Baxter is utilising all resources available to research Crusaders’ Europa League rivals from Latvia.

The Crues play host to FK Leipaja next week before heading off for the away leg of the European adventure.

Baxter’s summer schedule over his time as Seaview boss has centred on regular competitive pre-season commitments and the Crusaders boss admits excitement at preparing for the challenge.

“You want as much information as possible so we were on the internet after the draw looking up footage of Leipaja and doing research into past results,” said Baxter. “We also actually have a guy connected to our club who lives around that area so will get him to watch the team play this Thursday and report to us.

“It is great to have that first-hand insight on top of the research you can do online.

“I know they played Glentoran in the past and have quite a bit of European experience so will know the rigours involved but we are pleased with the draw.

“There is something special about European ties and the atmosphere has been good around the club since we came back in for training.

“Certainly no-one is looking on it as a chore to be back so soon.”

Crusaders’ domestic campaign ended in disappointment as the back-to-back champions lost the title crown to Linfield in a dramatic finale to the season.

However, Baxter feels his players have returned rejuvenated - with the arrival this week of Danish goalkeeper Brian Jensen an added boost.

“Brian will spend time training here and arrives for tonight’s session,” said Baxter of the 41-year-old former West Bromwich Albion and Burnley number one. “Brian coming in will help add to that air of anticipation around the place and build on the buzz already within the squad.

“We have training on Tuesday and Thursday then a match and will do more next Tuesday and Thursday but with the plan to focus on the technical aspects at this stage.”